Science & Tech

Japan’s Smart Lander for Moon Exploration (SLIM) Mission

  • On December 25, Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) spacecraft successfully entered lunar orbit, ahead of its planned January 19 moon landing.
  • Following India’s Chandrayaan 3 mission in August, Japan will join an elite group of nations that have achieved a soft lunar landing if the mission is successful.

An Overview of SLIM

  • Design and launch: SLIM, which will be launched by JAXA on September 7, 2023, is a lightweight spacecraft weighing only 590 kg, as opposed to Chandrayaan 3’s 3,900 kg.
  • SLIM’s mission objectives include demonstrating precision lunar landing capabilities by landing within 100 metres of its designated site near the Shioli Crater.

Trip to the Moon

  • SLIM adopted a longer, fuel-efficient approach based on weak-stability boundary theory, requiring four months to reach the moon, as opposed to Chandrayaan 3’s Hohmann transfer orbit.
  • SLIM used Earth’s gravity to generate kinetic energy, eventually aligning its trajectory with the moon’s orbit for a slower approach and capture.

SLIM’s Lunar Mission Objectives

  • Precision Landing: SLIM’s endeavour to land with the least amount of variation from its intended location establishes a new bar for lunar missions.
  • LEV-1 and LEV-2, two miniature rovers, will be deployed by the spacecraft to research the lunar surface, temperature, radiation, and even the moon’s mantle.

The Effect on Chandrayaan 4

  • Exploration of the Moon’s South Pole: Chandrayaan 4, a joint Indian-Japanese mission (LUPEX), seeks to study regions closer to the moon’s south pole, which will necessitate precision landing technologies.
  • Technological Synergy: SLIM technologies and insights, notably in navigation and feature-matching algorithms, will be critical to Chandrayaan 4’s success.

The Difficulties of Exploring the Moon’s South Pole

  • Rough Terrain: The polar areas of the moon, with their stony terrain, craters, and steep slopes, necessitate highly accurate landing capabilities.
  • Water-Ice Exploration: Because these locations contain water ice, they are ideal candidates for future lunar expeditions for resource utilisation.
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