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Japan's space agency announces successful landing of 'Moon Sniper' mission.

Japan’s space agency announces successful landing of ‘Moon Sniper’ mission.

According to Japan’s space agency, the “Moon Sniper” spacecraft successfully touched down approximately 55 meters away from its intended destination on Thursday. The agency also shared the initial images captured during the mission.

The autonomous Smart Lander for Exploring the Moon (SLIM), nicknamed the “Moon Sniper” for its precise technology, aimed to land within 100 meters of a designated landing location.

It is significantly more accurate than the typical landing area of multiple kilometers.

JAXA, the space agency, announced that SLIM achieved a precise and gentle touchdown. The exact landing spot has been verified to be 55 meters from the designated target location.

Japan successfully landed a soft lunar landing on Saturday, becoming the fifth country to do so after the United States, Soviet Union, China, and India.

However, the celebratory atmosphere was dampened due to an issue with the solar batteries of the compact spacecraft, as they were not producing any power.

JAXA made the decision to turn off the spacecraft while it still had 12% of its power, in order to potentially regain functionality when the angle of the sun shifts.

JAXA stated earlier this week that they are making preparations for restoration in the event that sunlight shines on the moon from the west in the future, which could potentially lead to power generation.

Prior to deactivating SLIM, the mission control team successfully retrieved technical and image data from the craft’s descent and the lunar surface.

On Thursday, JAXA released the initial colored pictures from the mission, displaying the SLIM spacecraft positioned at a slight angle on the rugged, gray terrain, with lunar hills in the background.

The objective was to reach a depression on the moon’s surface where its mantle, the typically deep layer beneath its outer layer, may be visible.

JAXA plans to examine the rocks in order to unravel the moon’s enigma of potential water sources. These sources are crucial for establishing bases on the moon, potentially serving as rest stops on the journey to Mars in the future.

On Saturday, two probes separated from SLIM without any issues. One of the probes contains a transmitter, while the other is specifically designed to move across the surface of the moon and send images back to Earth.

This shape-shifting mini-rover, slightly bigger than a tennis ball, was co-developed by the firm behind the Transformer toys and took the picture released by JAXA on Thursday.

In the past 50 years since the first human landed on the moon, several governments and private companies have launched missions to the moon, with SLIM being one of the most recent lunar missions.

However, there are numerous technical difficulties, and the US experienced two obstacles this month in its ambitious lunar programs.

Two past lunar missions from Japan, one funded by the government and one by a private entity, were unsuccessful as well.

In 2022, the nation’s attempt to send a lunar probe called Omotenashi as part of the United States’ Artemis 1 mission was unsuccessful.

In April, the Japanese startup ispace attempted to become the first private company to successfully land on the Moon. However, they lost communication with their craft during a “hard landing” and were unsuccessful.