Japan launches high-accuracy moon sniper lunar lander

The mission’s objective is to examine the lunar surface, gather data in readiness for upcoming manned missions, and assess advanced optical and image processing technologies.

 Rocket, Weapon, Launch

After three weather-related delays, Japan launched a moon spacecraft on 6 September 2023.
The $100 million space mission nicknamed the ‘moon sniper’ is deploying a ‘Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon’ or SLIM, which is expected to land within an unusual 100 meters of its designated target. What is the objective of the mission? After two failed landing attempts in a year, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched SLIM to study the lunar surface, collect data to prepare for future manned missions, and test cutting-edge optical and image processing technologies.

Why does it matter?

The successful launch of the lunar probe demonstrates JAXA’s technological capabilities in space exploration and its ability to compete with other countries in the field. Japan hopes to become the world’s fifth country to land on the moon early next year, after the US, Russia, China, and recently India, and prove it can master safe and high-precision landings on celestial bodies.

SLIM’s mission comes just two weeks after India joined the space nations by making a historic touchdown at the unexplored lunar south pole with its low-cost Chandrayaan-3, and Russia crashed its Luna-25 lander in a similar attempt. Beyond 2025, JAXA is planning a Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (LUPEX) in collaboration with ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organization, with Japan’s H3 rocket lifting India’s next lunar mission into space. The country also aims to put the first non-American astronaut on the moon by the end of the decade as part of NASA’s Artemis space program.