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Countdown Starts For Japan’s “Moon Sniper” Precision Landing

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When Japan attempts a precision landing on Friday, it hopes to become the fifth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon. This would be a significant accomplishment for Japan’s space programme, which has faced several setbacks and has been overshadowed by rival China.

With a technology that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) claims is unprecedented and crucial in the hunt for moon water and human habitability, the “moon sniper” probe is attempting to land within 100 metres (328 feet) of its target.

Japan is seeking a greater role in space, working with Washington, a close ally, to counter China’s technological and military strength, particularly in space. Japan is home to several private space startups and hopes to launch a man to the moon as a part of NASA’s Artemis mission.

However, JAXA has experienced a number of setbacks, such as the March launch failure of the new flagship rocket H3, which was intended to match SpaceX’s and other commercial rocket providers’ cost-competitiveness.

On Saturday at midnight (1500 GMT Friday), JAXA’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) probe will begin a 20-minute touchdown phase of its one-way mission. The mission’s goal is to land on a target site that is approximately the size of two athletic tracks on the slope of a crater that is located just south of the lunar equator.

As JAXA’s SLIM project manager Shinichiro Sakai put it, “No other nation has achieved this. Proving Japan has this technology would bring us a huge advantage in upcoming international missions like Artemis.”

In the future, JAXA emphasises that its high-precision technology will be an effective instrument in exploring the hilly moon poles, which are thought to contain potential sources of fuel, water, and oxygen. In 2025, Japan and India intend to conduct a cooperative unmanned lunar polar exploration.

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