Japan aims to become the fifth country to successfully land one of its devices on the moon today (around 4:20 p.m. Spanish time), after the Soviet Union, the United States, China and India. Even if the starting position in the race does not seem rosy, the Japanese Aerospace Research Agency (JAXA) is equipping its challenge with skills that make its mission a pioneer. The SLIM probe (Smart Lander for Exploring the Moon), also called the “moon sniper”, wants to land using much more precise technology than usual. The Eagle module, with which Armstrong and Aldrin became the first people to reach the moon, had enough precision to land on an ellipse 20 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide. The goal of SLIM is to land in Shioli Crater at a maximum distance of 100 meters from the chosen point. A few moments before SLIM touches the lunar soil, it will launch its two research robots LEV-1 and LEV-2.
Although landing on the moon has been going on for more than half a century, it is still not a routine operation and the success rate is still around 50%. JAXA's goal is to prove that its technology not only allows it to land safely on an alien world, but also to do so exactly where each mission requires it. “Currently, knowledge of astronomical objects has increased and the details that should be studied have become more specific, so high-precision landings near the study target have become a necessity,” explains the Japanese agency.
If successful, its precision tools, which include cameras equipped with image recognition algorithms to detect dangerous obstacles, could be integrated into new missions to explore the moon for water and other resources, and improve exploration of other planets and satellites of the moon. Solar system.
In addition to testing its precision landing system, SLIM has two small rover robots on board, LEV-1 and LEV-2 (lunar excursion vehicles). The first, microwave-sized and weighing two kilos, can be moved by jumping. It has a camera to take images, a thermometer, a radiation and inclinometer, and can communicate with Earth. The LEV-2 is a sphere slightly larger than a tennis ball and weighs 250 grams. It can be split in two to reveal two cameras.
Image of the LEV-2 robot with “SLIM”.JAXA
Japan has already managed to land on very distant asteroids with two missions, Hayabusa 1 and 2, but the moon presents other challenges due to its greater gravitational pull. In statements to the Portal agency, Kazuto Saiki, a professor at Ritsumeikan- University, which developed the SLIM infrared camera, that his country “cannot beat the United States, China or India in terms of resources committed to a lunar mission.” For this reason, it is considered relevant to focus on developing technologies that could be interesting for other countries to integrate into their projects. With this approach, it wants to take on a partner role alongside other countries. A joint robotic mission with India is scheduled to launch in 2025 and a Japanese man will be sent to the moon in collaboration with NASA's Artemis program in the coming years.
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