NASA takes pictures of the planned landing site of the Japanese probe

NASA has published images of Shioli crater taken by the LRO spacecraft. It was chosen as the landing site for the Japanese probe SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon).

Lunar sniper

SLIM was launched on September 6, as a side payload, along with the X-ray telescope XRISM. The main task of the probe is to test the technology of precision lunar landing. It will have 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 “lunar sniper”.
The SLIM spacecraft (concept). Source: JAXA

The SLIM payload consists of several cameras, as well as a pair of microrovers. One of them will move on the Moon by jumping, the other will be able to change its shape. Both SLIM and the microrovers are designed to operate on the lunar surface for one local day (14 Earth days).

After the launch, SLIM gradually increased the apogee of its orbit until it left the outskirts of our planet. On October 4, the spacecraft made a flyby of the Moon. In December, it will approach our planet’s satellite again, after which it will enter a permanent orbit around it. SLIM is scheduled to land in early 2024.

Shioli crater

We can already look at the site of the planned SLIM landing. The images published by NASA show two very bright impact formations. The larger one in the foreground is Shioli Crater. Its diameter is estimated at 210 meters. The second crater on the left side of the image has no name, its diameter is 85 meters.
The Shioli crater. Source: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Such a significant brightness is due to the youth of the craters. Under the influence of cosmic radiation and micrometeorites, the material ejected as a result of impacts gradually darkens (this process is called cosmic weathering). That’s why only the “freshest” lunar craters have a bright rim around them and characteristic ray systems.

Interestingly, Shioli Crater is located 12 km from the rather large crater Theophilus (100 km in diameter). In fact, it stands on the ground, ejected during its formation, which was knocked out from a depth of 1-2 km. Thus, SLIM will be able to study material from the lunar interior without the need for any drilling.

Based on materials from