Japan’s Latest Attempt to Land on the Moon: Could it Become the Fifth Country to Succeed?

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Japan’s Latest Moon Mission Could Make It the Fifth Country to Land on Lunar Surface

Japan has attempted to land on the moon twice in the past year, but its latest endeavor holds promise as it could make Japan the fifth country to achieve this feat.

Kari Bingen, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), expressed confidence in Japan’s potential success, despite the previous failures. Bingen highlighted the technical complexity of the mission.

Last month, Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched a lunar exploration spacecraft from its Tanegashima Space Center. The spacecraft carries an X-ray telescope and a lightweight lander scheduled to touch down on the moon in the first half of 2024.

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) successfully completed the “Earth orbit phase” on Oct. 1, transitioning from Earth’s orbit to its trajectory towards the moon.

This attempt comes shortly after a failed mission by Japanese startup ispace and a discarded effort to land the Omotenashi spacecraft on the moon. The success of Japan’s current mission could have significant implications for space exploration.

JAXA’s SLIM lander aims to achieve an accuracy of 100 meters, surpassing the usual range of a couple of kilometers. This precision is crucial for establishing a human base on the moon and identifying potential resource-rich areas in the southern region.

India recently became the fourth country to successfully land on the moon, specifically on the unexplored South Pole. Ehud Behar, former director of the Norman and Helen Asher Space Research Institute, emphasized the importance of learning from failures in space exploration.

Racing Ahead of China

The intensifying space race in Asia has prompted the United States to seek cooperation with the region, particularly to counter China’s influence. The U.S. and Japan have signed an agreement to strengthen bilateral cooperation in space and explore the moon and other planets together.

Bingen pointed out China’s assertiveness in asserting control, both on Earth and potentially on the moon. However, she also emphasized that cooperation in space exploration is driven by various factors such as national pride, scientific discovery, economic benefits, national security, and technological advancement.

Other countries in Asia, including India and Singapore, have also signed the Artemis Accords, which promote peaceful and responsible collaboration in lunar exploration. Both the U.S. and China have ambitious plans to send astronauts to space in the coming decade.

While some scientists argue that sending robots for space exploration is more cost-effective and safer, the dream of human exploration and colonization of celestial bodies continues to captivate the imagination.

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