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Japan becomes fifth country to land spacecraft on the moon

Japan follows the United States, the Soviet Union, China and India in reaching the moon.

Screenshot 2024 01 21 105657TOKYO: Japan became the fifth country in history to reach the moon when one of its spacecrafts without astronauts successfully made a soft landing on the lunar surface early Saturday.

However, space officials said they needed more time to analyze whether the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, achieved its mission priority of making a pinpoint landing. They also said the craft’s solar panel had failed to generate power, which could shorten its activity on the moon.

Space officials believe that the SLIM’s small rovers were launched as planned and that data was being transmitted back to Earth, said Hitoshi Kuninaka, head of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, a unit of Japan’s space agency.

But he said that SLIM’s solar battery wasn’t generating power and that it had only a few more hours of battery life. He said the priority was for the craft to gather as much data about its landing and the moon as possible on the remaining battery.

Japan follows the United States, the Soviet Union, China and India in reaching the moon.

Kuninaka said he believes that Japan’s space program at least achieved “minimum” success.

SLIM landed on the moon at about 12:20 a.m. Tokyo time Saturday (1520 GMT Friday).

There was a tense wait for news after the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s mission control initially said that SLIM was on the lunar surface, but that it was still “checking its status.” No further details were given until a news conference nearly two hours later.

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