Japan’s space agency called JAXA has recently announced plans to send a lander probe that will be unmanned to the moon by the year 2018. This will be Japan’s first mission to the moon and JAXA stated that the news was reported to Japan’s state panel before they went public with the palns for the mission. They added that this is just the initial step and the plan has to be formally approved before they are given the go ahead.
UPI said that the mission is expected to cost $8-$12 billion and the agency will use a probe called SLIM for the mission. SLIM stands for Smart Lander for Investigating Moon. This probe will be launched by a small scale Epsilon rocket that is in Japan. JAXA has other missions in mind for the next decade such as their hope to put landers on the martian moons, Phobos and Deimos according to UPI.
The mission to the moon will be used in an attempt to perfect soft-landing technologies. These could potentially be utilized in future missions to the moon or Mars that are manned. Face recognition software will be used in an attempt to pick up craters on the moon’s surface. Many say that this is Japan’s attempt to keep up with countries such as China and India. Both countries have made ventures into space recently with India being able to successfully put a probe around Mars into orbit and China’s lunar rover also having success.
JAXA has had some success before as well. They put a probe, that returned to Earth in 2010, on an asteroid. China, the formerly known Soviet Union, and The United States are the only ones so far to have landed successfully on the moon and Japan hopes to be next according to CNN. Japan also put the SELENE craft, named after a Japanese moon princess, into orbit around the moon in 2008. They were able to gather data about the moon’s surface that can help to calculate a proper landing site for their future mission.
Japan has had difficulty with Moon landing attempts in the past due to the fact that they missed their intended target by a certain number of miles. JAXA hopes that SLIM will help them make a soft landing within the appropriate 328 feet radius. The hope is that their past voyages into space and the data gathered during those trips will help to better increase landing accuracy and determine location more efficiently. The SELENE craft’s orbit around the moon discovered a shaft in the moon’s surface. The shaft is approximately 196 feet in diameter and 262 feet deep as Tech Times reported. This shaft in the moon’s surface is being considered by JAXA as a potential location for a moon base and possibly even a landing spot for the 2018 mission.
Japan has proven its ability in the past in terms of developing advanced landing technology. The probe that landed on an asteroid is a prime example of this. It is true that gravity levels are different on an asteroid than they are on the moon, so JAXA will have to keep this in mind and technology will have to be altered if they are to land on the moon. JAXA is also planning to send a rover to the moon by the end of 2016 as stated by Tech Times. This venture will require an American built landing craft and rockets so they say.
Tech Times added that JAXA is anxiously awaiting their planned 2018 mission and hope that their plan is formally approved shortly. Japan hopes to be the fourth nation to land on the moon and JAXA seems confident that this will be possible by 2018 according to CNN.
By Heather Granruth
The Japan News