Japan has launched a rocket carrying a lunar exploration spacecraft as the country looks to become the world’s fifth to land on the moon.
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said the homegrown H-IIA rocket took off from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan on Thursday and successfully released the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM).
Dubbed the “Moon Sniper”, JAXA aims to land SLIM within 100 meters (328 feet) of its target site on the lunar surface.
That is much less than the usual range of several kilometers.
“By creating the SLIM lander, humans will make a qualitative shift towards being able to land where we want and not just where it is easy to land,” JAXA said before the launch. “By achieving this, it will become possible to land on planets even more resource-scarce than the Moon.”
Globally, “there are no previous instances of pinpoint landing on celestial bodies with significant gravity such as the Moon”, JAXA added.