The Japanese probe SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) performed a maneuver that allowed it to enter a permanent orbit around the Moon. The landing of the spacecraft is scheduled for January 19.
Three-month journey to the Moon
SLIM was launched on September 6 as a passing cargo, along with the XRISM X-ray telescope. The main task of the probe is to test the technology for an accurate landing on the moon. It is supposed to land at a given point near the Shioli crater with an accuracy of 100 meters. It is thanks to this that it received its unofficial nickname “moon sniper”.
— 小型月着陸実証機SLIM (@SLIM_JAXA) December 25, 2023
After launch, SLIM gradually increased the apogee of its orbit until it left the vicinity of our planet. On October 4, the spacecraft flew over the Moon. On December 25, it again approached the moon of our planet and activated its engine. This maneuver allowed the spacecraft to move into an intermediate orbit around the Moon. The height of its perilune is 600 km, the height of the apolune is 4,000 km.
In the coming days, SLIM will begin to gradually lower its orbit. By January 19, its height is expected to decrease to 15 km. After that, the spacecraft will begin landing. If all goes well, SLIM will land on the slope of Shioli crater. SLIM is equipped with five collapsible landing legs, which will help absorb the impact when touching the surface. If successful, Japan will become the fifth country in history to land its spacecraft on the moon.
Although the main task of the mission is to develop precision landing technology, SLIM also has several scientific instruments on board. In particular, the spacecraft carries a multi-band camera (MBC) to assess the composition of Shioli crater by analyzing the spectra of sunlight reflected from its surface. The mission team, in particular, will look for traces of the presence of the mineral olivine, which could have been ejected from under the lunar crust.
There are also a couple of micro-rovers on board the SLIM. One of them will move around the moon by jumping, the other is similar in size to a baseball and must move by driving. Both devices carry cameras and other scientific payloads. Both the SLIM and micro rovers are designed to operate on the lunar surface for one local day (14 Earth days).
According to https://spacenews.com
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