Japan creates History as the Spacecraft “Moon Sniper” successfully lands on the moon but with a major issue

Japan’s Moon Sniper lands on the moon following Chandrayan 3 but faces a slight issue while landing

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Japan became the fifth nation to land on the moon when its “moon sniper” SLIM mission succeeded. However, it appears that the lander’s solar cells are malfunctioning at this point, endangering the mission. Japan is the newest member of the select group of nations that can soft-land spacecraft on the Moon. At 8:50 PM IST on Friday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) verified that its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) had successfully touched down on the Moon’s surface. The “Moon Sniper” has a serious problem despite the successful landing: its solar cells are not producing electricity.

With the landing, the list of countries that have soft-landed a spacecraft on the Moon now has five members — the United States, the erstwhile Soviet Union, China, India, and Japan.

The spacecraft is not generating power as of now

“SLIM is now operating only on its battery, and we are prioritizing the transfer of its data onto the earth”, Hitoshi Kuninaka, the head of JAXA’s research center, told a press conference, reported Reuters

The spacecraft’s batteries can only withstand a few hours on the hard lunar surface, even after “life-sustaining treatments” such as shutting off the heating. According to Kuninaka, JAXA is hoping that a change in the angle at which the sun shines on the panels would allow them to function again.

Why it was named The Moon Sniper

Because the SLIM mission sought to land within 100 meters of its objective, it was named the Moon Sniper. Spacecraft typically have a target accuracy of only a few miles away. Because this technology can reach hilly portions of the Moon that may contain water and oxygen, JAXA believes it will be a powerful tool for future exploration. These essential components of life also serve as a significant source of rocket fuel. Even with the solar cell problem, SLIM performed significantly better than Astrobiotic’s privately constructed Peregrine lander, which encountered a serious problem shortly after takeoff and had to be destroyed by burning in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Japanese craft has been engineered to do the feat with unparalleled accuracy, and it is outfitted with a shape-shifting mini-rover that was co-developed by the company that makes Transformer toys.

“The ‘sniper’ landing precision is a huge leap in technology that will allow missions to be designed to target much more specific research questions,” said Emily Brunsden

Other Attempts to get to the moon

This month, the Peregrine lunar lander, owned by the US private company Astrobotic, was destroyed by fuel leaks that happened after takeoff.  Contact with the spacecraft was lost on Thursday over a distant region of the South Pacific, where it had most certainly burned up in Earth’s atmosphere during its return trip. Plans for crewed lunar flights under NASA’s Artemis programme have also been delayed.

Other nations trying their luck include South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, China, and Russia. Japan has had two failed lunar missions in the past, one of which was public and the other private. As part of the US Artemis 1 mission, the nation sent the Omotenashi lunar probe in 2022, although it was an unsuccessful mission. Japanese startup ispace made a fruitless attempt to land on the moon in April, losing contact with its ship following what it called a “hard landing.”

By: Gursharan Kaur

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