By Kantaro Komiya
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan aims to become the fifth country to put a spacecraft on the moon when it tries a precision landing on Friday.
The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) is attempting to land within 100 metres (328 feet) of its target. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) says the technology will become essential to searching for water, and other factors that could sustain life on the moon.
Here's a timeline of some events in Japan's space programs leading up to the planned SLIM touchdown.
YEAR PROJECT DEVELOPMENT
1970 Ohsumi A University of Tokyo lab launched
the first Japanese satellite on a
homemade rocket, opening Japan's
space age. Aerospace engineering
was previously banned under a
U.S.-led occupation after the end
of World War II until 1952.
1990- Hiten Japan launched its first lunar
1993 probe and conducted navigational
experiments between the earth and
the moon. The spacecraft was
manually collided onto the moon at
the end of the mission.
2001- H-IIA The flagship medium-lift rocket
Prese has been successful at 47 of 48
nt launches, but JAXA plans to retire
it after two more launches and
replace it with low-cost H3.
2003- Hayabusa The spacecraft made a rendezvous
2010 on an asteroid named Itokawa in
2005 and marked the world's first
mission to deliver asteroid
samples to the earth in 2010.
2007- The lunar orbiter obtained
2009 Kaguya high-definition images of the
(SELENE) moon's surface and other
scientific data until manually
sent to crash onto the moon.
2014- The successor to Hayabusa touched
Prese Hayabusa2 down on the asteroid Ryugu in 2019
nt and brought a sample capsule back
to the earth in 2020. JAXA keeps
operating the craft to study
planetary defence from small
celestial objects approaching the
Octob Epsilon-6 JAXA manually destroyed the sixth
er model of Epsilon solid-fuel small
2022 rocket after launching because of
its deviant trajectory, marking
Japan's first rocket launch
failure since 2003.
Novem OMOTENASHI The small probe was meant to
ber achieve Japan's first soft landing
2022 on the moon. But JAXA lost contact
with it shortly after it was
launched as one of 10 secondary
payloads for the first mission of
NASA's Artemis Program.
March H3 JAXA manually destroyed the
2023- initial model of the new flagship
Prese rocket after launch due to engine
nt ignition trouble, causing
widespread delays in Japan's space
missions including SLIM. H3's
second model is set be launched on
Feb. 15, 2024.
April Hakuto-R Tokyo-based startup ispace inc
2023 Mission 1 attempted what could have been the
world's first private-sector lunar
landing, but the spacecraft
crashed onto the moon due to
altitude miscalculation. The
company plans to launch the second
mission in the fourth quarter of
July Epsilon S An engine of a new type of Epsilon
2023 small rocket exploded at JAXA's
testing site. The accident delayed
upcoming satellite launch plans,
including Vietnam's earth
observation satellite that was due
to be brought to space by the
first model of Epsilon S.
Septe SLIM JAXA launched SLIM two weeks after
mber Indian counterpart achieved its
2023- Chandrayaan-3 mission to the
Prese unexplored lunar south pole. SLIM
nt took a fuel-efficient four-month
trajectory to the moon and will
start a 20-minute touchdown phase
from 1500 GMT Friday.
Sources: JAXA, National Diet Library, Reuters reports
(Reporting by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Frances Kerry)