Updated January 18th, 2024 at 20:28 IST

Japan’s ‘Moon Sniper’ Lander Heads for Historic Touchdown on Lunar Surface: '20 Minutes of Terror'

“The start of the deceleration to the landing on the Moon’s surface is expected to be a breathless, numbing 20 minutes of terror,” Kenji Kushiki said.

Digital Desk
Japan Moon Lander SLIM
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM. | Image:Jaxa

Japan is bracing for the historic touchdown of its lander the ‘Moon Sniper’ on the lunar surface, becoming only the fifth country to do after India, China, US, Russia.  Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)announced that the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (Slim) will start its crucial and much anticipated descent to the rocky lunar surface at midnight on Friday (1500 GMT).

[SLIM Moon landing: live broadcast 🌓] 
On January 19 (Friday) from 23:00 JST
🔗 inherits the history of previous lunar missions and opens the door to future lunar and planetary exploration with the next generation landing technology! #GoodAfterMoon

— JAXA Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (@ISAS_JAXA_EN) January 16, 2024

‘Numbing 20 minutes of terror’

Approximately 20 minutes after the touchdown, the spacecraft will become a hallmark of whether landers can reach on the moon with an unprecedented precision despite challenging conditions. “The start of the deceleration to the landing on the Moon’s surface is expected to be a breathless, numbing 20 minutes of terror,” Kenji Kushiki, the subproject manager of the SLIM mission, said in a statement. The lander has been designed to achieve a “pinpoint” landing at a specific location on the moon. The technology will enable the future missions “to land on planets even more resource scarce than the moon,” according to the Jaxa space agency.


[SLIM Moon landing: live broadcast Jan. 19, 2024 from 23:00 JST]
A live broadcast during the moon landing operations for the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) and press conference will be streamed live on the#JAXA YouTube channel #SLIMlive

— JAXA(Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) (@JAXA_en) January 15, 2024

“Nowadays, there has been an increase in the knowledge of target astronomical objects and the details which should be studied have grown more specific so that high accuracy landings near the target of study have become necessary,” Jaxa said.

According to Jaxa, the lander will touch down less than 100 metres from a predetermined target on the moon. The successful landing will be crucial for a transition from an era of “landing where we can” towards one of “landing where we want” for future missions, Jaxa said in a statement. Japan, in November 2022, had abandoned its attempts to land the lunar probe Omotenashi on the moon. In April 2023, a Japan lost contact with its craft after making a “hard landing” coupled with a failed lift-off in May. The lander will land on the moon at10:20 a.m. ET Friday, or 12:20 a.m. Saturday Japan Standard Time. SLIM’s landing implies Japan’s first time successful landing of a robotic explorer on the moon’s surface.


Published January 18th, 2024 at 20:25 IST

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