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Trailblazing spacecraft reaches moon and sends back images

After whizzing through space for more than three months, the lunar lander's arrived at the moon.
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched its SLIM lunar lander on September 7
  • The trailblazing spacecraft has been whizzing through space for more than three months – but its now reached the moon
  • It’ll attempt to land on January 20, but in the meantime it’s sent back some stunning images of the moon

Published on Dec 28, 2023 at 8:51PM (UTC+4)

Last updated on Dec 29, 2023 at 6:30PM (UTC+4)

Edited by Adam Gray
Trailblazing spacecraft reaches moon and sends back images

A trailblazing spacecraft that spent three months whizzing through space reached the moon at Christmas.

Having successfully inserted into an oval-shaped orbit around the lunar north and south poles, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced its lunar lander had achieved a major milestone on December 25.

Over the next month its orbit will gradually become more circular before it attempts to land – but in the meantime it’s sent back some stunning images.

READ MORE! NASA’s wacky-looking Supper Guppy could be the reason humans are able to get back on the moon

Whether the trailblazing spacecraft will succeed in landing – who knows.

Approximately half of all lunar landings have failed, and only one out of three missions in 2023 that tried to touch down on the moon made it without crashing.

In August this year, India became the fourth country to land on the moon, joining the Soviet Union, United States, and China as the only spacefaring nations to achieve this feat.

The US will return to the moon for the first time in 50 years next month and when it does, it’ll be the first time a private company has touched down on the lunar surface.

The moon may be about a quarter-million miles from earth, but getting there isn’t even half the battle.

But so far so good for the SLIM mission (short for Smart lander for Investigating the Moon), which has provided a close-up photoshoot of the moon.

Swooping 370 miles above the surface, the trailblazing spacecraft has managed to snap images with its navigation camera, revealing a lunar surface pocked and splattered by craters.

While there’s no shortage of Apollo moon-landing deniers, JAXA has stitched together some of its lunar images into a flip book-like video (below) to further evidence the landmark event.

“You can see that SLIM is indeed moving above the lunar surface” JAXA said on X, according to a Google translation.

Having launched from the Tanegashima Space Center on September 7, the SLIM mission is expected to touch down near Shioli crater on the moon’s near side on January 20.

While most landing targets are many square-miles in scope, the SLIM mission’s goal is to demonstrate a so-called “pinpoint landing” with an accuracy of less than 100 yards – a level of precision unprecedented for moon landings.

Should Japan succeed, it will become the fifth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon.

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