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Japanese craft makes successful, pin-point Moon landing

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TOKYO: Japan’s “Moon Sniper” craft made a pin-point lunar landing despite last-minute engine problems, the space agency said on Thursday as it released the first images from the mission.

A photo taken by a mini-rover showed the boxy yellow lander sitting intact at a slight angle on the rocky grey surface, lunar slopes rising in the distance.

The unmanned Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) — dubbed the “Moon Sniper” for its precision technology — had the goal of touching down within 100 metres (330 feet) of a specific landing spot on a crater.

“SLIM succeeded in a pin-point soft landing […] the landing point is confirmed to be 55 metres away from the target point,” space agency JAXA said on Thursday.

The lander suffered engine problems during its descent that may have knocked it off course, Shinichiro Sakai, SLIM’s project manager, told reporters. Before that, the craft had been on track to land even closer to its target.

Problems with the lightweight spacecraft’s solar batteries also meant they were not generating power.

Nearly three hours after touchdown, JAXA decided to switch SLIM off with 12 per cent power remaining to allow for a possible resumption when the sun’s angle changes. That could be in just a week because the craft’s solar cells are facing west, the agency said. “Based on current estimates, we are preparing for the resumption of the probe’s operations by February 1,” JAXA said.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2024

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