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A Japanese space probe will reach the moon carrying a robotic grasshopper and a teleporter to the surface in January 2024.

A Japanese space probe will reach the moon carrying a robotic grasshopper and a teleporter to the surface in January 2024.

On the first day of Christmas, Japan's “smart” lunar rover SLIM, essentially a combination of a robotic grasshopper and a surface transforming robot (that transforms its own shape), successfully entered orbit around the moon. According to plans, SLIM will land on the Moon on January 19, 2024.

Japan's new lunar probe was launched on September 7, 2023, at 01:42 galactic time, from Tanegashima Space Center (Kyushu Island), when the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched a H-IIA 202 launch. The spacecraft launched two spacecraft: a telescope The

The video below shows the launch of the JAXA H-IIA 202 launch vehicle. The launch vehicle will launch the XRISM X-ray telescope and the SLIM lunar lander into space.

H-IIA Launches XRISM and SLIM – SciNews – September 2023 7. – 04 minutes and 25 seconds (YouTube).

The SLIM lunar probe is scheduled to land on January 19, 2024. Several orbital maneuvers must be performed up to the Moon in order to get close to our celestial companion and then enter a polar orbit there. SLIM was successfully launched into lunar orbit on Christmas Day, 25 December 2023, at 01:51 UTC.

The Japanese lunar probe SLIM has arrived at the Moon after a long time after several orbital maneuvers (JAXA,, 26.08.2023).
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's SLIM lunar probe approached the lunar surface after several trajectory adjustments, where it could begin its descent to the surface near Shiulei crater, at the location marked on the lunar disk in the image. The probe approached the Moon from the lower right corner of the image and first circled along the lines outlined in light blue, then approached the Moon's surface in an increasingly narrow path (ISAS/JAXA 25.12.2023).
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's SLIM lunar probe above the lunar surface as seen by the artist (ISAS/JAXA).

The first images taken by the SLIM probe during its orbit around the Moon have already been published. Since previous press releases did not specify the surface area of ​​the Moon and which lunar structures appear in the images, the writer of these lines identified the areas. Upon investigation, the two images overlap to show part of the Moon's north polar region, with the Barrow, Goldschmidt, Anaxagoras, and Epigenis craters clearly visible. Incidentally, this area is very far from the probe's planned landing site, which is Shiuli Crater, which is located in the southeastern part of the Moon. The images below are also interesting because the probe shows them in an almost vertical view, while from Earth we can only see the north pole region of the Moon obliquely.

Two of the first images taken by SLIM show part of the Moon's north polar region. The large craters touching each other in the image on the right are, from left to right: Barrow crater with a diameter of 92 km, Goldschmidt crater with a diameter of 113 km, and Anaxagoras crater with a diameter of about 52 km. The crater with a slightly raised rim near the center of the images is the 55 km diameter Ibigens crater. In the images, lunar north is pointing down (ISAS/JAXA, SPACE.COM, 12/27/2023).

According to the plans, the SLIM lander will land on the surface of the Moon so that its propulsion units during braking will turn towards the surface in an almost vertical position, then in the final stage of landing the lander will rotate horizontally and reach the surface with its feet in this position. He will look like Jumbo the Elephant, the well-known fairytale hero.

SLIM lander on the lunar surface in an art demonstration (JAXA, Sky and Telescope Online, 09/07/2023).

The SLIM lander also carries two small surface robots, the Lunar Excursion Vehicle 1 (LEV-1), which is a “hopper” that changes position on the surface by jumping, and the other name LEV-2, which is a rolling, walking or Running or shape-shifting (transformer) robot.

The LEV-1 robotic grasshopper also has a wide-angle camera, a surface temperature measuring instrument, a radiometer, and an instrument for measuring the inclination angle (slope angle) of the terrain. The LEV-1 antenna will be in direct contact with the Earth, and its instruments and software have been developed taking into account the experience of the previous successful Japanese asteroid probe Hayabusa-2 (“Falcon”).

The transforming robot LEV-2 weighs about 250 grams, roughly the size of the palm of a hand, and changes shape, moves, “runs,” “walks,” and changes its position and position on the moon’s surface. It also contains two small cameras. The predecessor of LEV-2 was the Japanese lunar lander Hakuto-R Mission 1, which collided with the Moon on April 25, 2023. Hopefully, the converted robot will succeed in the SLIM mission.

Two small surface robotic vehicles for the Japanese lunar probe SLIM: the grasshopper robot LEV-1 (left) and the transformer robot LEV-2 (right) (JAXA, Twitter 2023.08.27.

The SLIM lunar lander is scheduled to be near Scioli crater, located within the famous and visible 98 km diameter Cerrelus crater on the far side of the moon. The lunar coordinates of the Xiuli crater with a diameter of about 270 meters are: east longitude 23.23 degrees, south latitude 13.33 degrees. Name of the hole Shioli Kutsuna (b. 1992) Named after the Australian-born Japanese actress who, among other things, played a major role in the American superhero film “Deadpool 2” (2016/17). Shiuli Crater is a young monument with strikingly bright jet lines. Study of this material can also provide important results during the SLIM program.

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The landing site for SLIM was chosen by the Japanese company SELENE (Kaguya or
The “Moon Princess” probe and high-resolution images from NASA's LRO lunar lander helped.

Chiuli Crater, about 270 meters in diameter, inside Cerrillos Crater as captured by NASA's LRO LROC NAC (Narrow View Angle) Camera. LRO captured the image at 69.41 km above the lunar surface (NASA/GAFC/ASU LRO/LROC NAC M1378641884LE, Sky and Telescope online, 07/09/2023).

The main task of the SLIM program is to achieve accuracy within 100 meters of the selected landing site, regardless of the lunar area and how difficult the terrain. SLIM's polar orbit around the Moon indicates that the primary goal of the Japanese lunar program is to reach the south polar region of the Moon using a lander, surface robots, and then astronauts. One step closer to that goal is now SLIM's mission.

If the SLIM project is successful, Japan will become the fifth country to send a lander to the surface of the moon, after the Soviet Union, the United States, China and India. Moreover, if the two small surface robots were to also operate, it would be the first country to operate two lunar rovers at the same landing site.

The news is related to the topic of the GINOP-2.3.2-15-2016-00003 project “Cosmic impacts and risks.”


Related website:

Space (07/09/2023)


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