Japan’s first lander enters lunar orbit

    A Japanese spacecraft has moved a big step closer to making the country’s first-ever moon landing after arriving in lunar orbit on Christmas Day.

    The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said in a press statement that it was “pleased to announce” that the robotic moon lander “was successfully inserted into lunar orbit at 16:51 (Japan time) on December 25, 2023.”

    “The orbit change proceeded as planned, and the spacecraft is currently in a normal condition,” the agency said.

    In mid-January, the device is scheduled to begin the necessary adjustments for landing on the surface of the moon, which, if all goes according to plan, should occur after midnight on Jan. 20, 2024, local Japanese time.

    The so-called Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) module and X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite were launched on September 7 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima.

    The SLIM lander is Japan’s new attempt to make its first successful moon landing.

    The lander will attempt to touch down on the lunar surface near Shioli Crater, near the moon’s equator, in an attempt to make the most precise landing to date, according to JAXA.

    It will take images to be used in the Artemis lunar exploration project, which aims to facilitate the return of humans to the moon and, ultimately, the exploration of mars.

    If successful, Japan would be the fifth country to land a module on the moon, after the former Soviet Union, the US, Canada, and India.

    By Nadeem Faisal Baiga