Japan's H2-A Rocket Embarks on Lunar Landing Mission

Japan successfully launched a lunar mission on Thursday, becoming the fifth country to send a spacecraft to the moon in a race to gain a better understanding of Earth's closest neighbor. The mission, which involved an H2-A rocket, took off from the Tanegashima Space Center and is expected to enter the moon's orbit in three to four months before landing early next year. The rocket is carrying two space missions: a new X-ray telescope to study the origins of the universe and a lightweight high-precision moon lander that will serve as a foundation for future moon landing technology. The launch was crucial for Japan's space program, as the country's reputation was at stake following a series of costly failures over the past year. The success of this mission will elevate Japan's position as a leading player in space exploration. The mission is also significant in terms of Japan's national security strategy in space, as the country aims to improve its defensive capabilities and information-gathering systems using space technology. The lunar mission, called Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), aims to achieve a super precise landing within 328 feet (100 meters) of its target location, which is much closer than conventional lunar landers. The advanced imaging technology used in SLIM will not only contribute to Japan's response to China's space program but also support NASA's Artemis project, which aims to place astronauts on the moon and establish a sustainable presence there. SLIM is set to enter the lunar orbit in about three to four months and land on a small crater called Shioli on the near side of the moon within four to six months. The landing mission will investigate the origins of the moon and test technology critical for future moon landing programs.
The X-ray telescope on its way to the moon is called the X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM), jointly developed by JAXA, NASA and other entities.
It is a new generation of high-resolution imaging that will help scientists and astronomers better study stars, galaxies and black holes — including hot plasma, the matter that makes up most of the universe.
Japan has made several attempts to reach the moon, including its Omotenashi project to land an ultrasmall probe. In November, Japan abandoned the project after failing to restore communications with the spacecraft. Earlier this year, Tokyo-based space company ispace also pulled the plug on the first Japanese private-sector attempt to land on the moon.
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Japan’s space missions have faced several other setbacks in the past year.
Last October, the Epsilon-6 rocket failed following a malfunction after liftoff. The rocket was ordered to self-destruct less than 10 minutes into the launch because it was not on the right path.
In March, the second-stage engine of an important new rocket, the H-3, failed to ignite. It was also ordered to self-destruct within minutes.
The rocket was the first major upgrade to the country’s rocket program in over 20 years. It was designed to help the government reach its target of doubling the number of intelligence-gathering satellites to 10 by 2028.
Then in July, the new Epsilon S rocket engine exploded during a test for the second-stage engine at the Noshiro Rocket Testing Center in Akita prefecture. The explosion occurred about one minute after the test began, blowing away part of the building at the site.
JAXA is investigating the cause of the accident, which could affect the launch of the first Epsilon S rocket scheduled for 2024.
Ahmed Hakim
By : Ahmed Hakim
Ahmed Hakim is a professional journalist since 2019, a media graduate from Iraqi University, a technology expert, a media consultant and a member of the International Organization of Journalists - a member of the fact-checking team at Meta Company. He writes in the fields of entertainment, art, science and technology, and believes that the pen can change everything
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