Japan’s SLIM moon lander successfully enters the lunar orbit

A Japanese spacecraft called SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) successfully entered the lunar orbit on Christmas Day, December 25, 2023, at 4:51 p.m. JST (or 07:51 UTC), according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Here, JST stands for Japan Standard Time, which is 9 hours ahead of UTC,Coordinated Universal Time.

An artist's illustration shows Japan's SLIM spacecraft before landing on the lunar surface
An artist’s illustration shows Japan’s SLIM spacecraft before landing on the lunar surface. (Image credit: JAXA)

SLIM is scheduled to land on the lunar surface on January 20, 2024, at 12:20 a.m. JST (or 15:20 UTC on January 19). It will be Japan’s first ever moon landing. If it is successful, then Japan will be the fifth country after the Soviet Union, the U.S., China, and India to make a soft land on the lunar surface.

Currently, on December 25, the spacecraft is in a 4,000 km by 600 km elliptical orbit above the lunar surface, and it takes only 6.4 hours to orbit the moon once. This orbit will be lowered gradually until its descent towards the moon starts on January 20, 2024, at 12:00 a.m. JST.

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) was launched with XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission) on September 7, 2023, at 8:42 a.m. JST atop a H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.

The main objective of SLIM is to achieve a precise landing on the lunar surface with an accuracy of less than 100 meters. This will be a great achievement for space exploration because if SLIM is successful, we will be able to land where we want and not where it is easy to land.  

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Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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