The Japanese space agency announced Friday that its unmanned spacecraft had landed on the moon, but the agency is still “checking its status.” More details will be revealed in a press conference soon.
The intelligent lunar lander touched down on the lunar surface at around 12:20 Tokyo time (15:20 GMT). The Intelligent Lunar Lander — a lightweight spacecraft about the size of a passenger vehicle — relies on precision landing technology that promises more control than previous lunar landings.
It's worth noting that previous studies used landing areas that were tens of kilometers wide, but the smart Japanese vehicle aims to land on an area that's a hundred meters wide.
The ingenious lunar lander is the result of two decades of work by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on precision technology and, if successful, would make Japan the fifth country to land on the moon after the United States, Russia, and China. India. Jaksa said the mission's main goal is to “test new landing technology that would allow any mission to the moon to land where we want, but not where it's easy to land.”
The mission comes ten days after a lunar mission launched by a private American company failed when the spacecraft leaked fuel just hours after launch.
The vehicle, called Moon Sniper, was launched last September on a Mitsubishi H2A rocket.
It initially orbited the Earth before entering the moon's orbit on Christmas Day.
Japan also hopes that the success of the initiative will help restore confidence in Japanese space technology after several failures.
It's a spacecraft designed by a Japanese company that crashed last April during an attempt to land on the moon, and it failed to launch a rocket on its first appearance in March.
JAXA has a proven track record of successfully performing difficult landings. The unmanned spacecraft “Hayabusa 2”, launched in 2014, landed twice on the nine-hundred-meter asteroid Ryugu and collected samples that were returned to Earth.
The Smart spacecraft carries two small, independent landers, the LEV-1 and LEV-2 lunar landers, which will be launched shortly before landing.