On March 15, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced the outline of the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), a lunar lander scheduled for launch in FY2022, and its moon observation plan. SLIM incorporates technology for a pinpoint landing at a targeted location on the lunar surface and will be used for future exploration of the Moon and Mars.
SLIM is scheduled to land on the lunar surface four to six months after launch. It will carry two small robots that will move independently on the lunar surface. No Japanese probe has yet landed on the Moon.
SLIM is approximately 2.4 meters high, 1.7 meters long, and 2.7 meters wide. Its main unit weighs 200 kg. Lunar probes sometimes land more than a kilometer from the target landing site. However, SLIM will land within 100 meters of the target site, according to JAXA.
SLIM will use the images from its onboard camera to precisely estimate its own position and approach the target location. It will detect obstacles such as large rocks and autonomously correct its trajectory while selecting a safe spot to land.
If successful, the results of the SLIM mission are expected to be used for future exploration of the Moon and Mars in cooperation with other nations.
The target landing site is a slope near a crater in “Mare Nectaris,” a low-latitude lunar plain. Mare Nectaris contains exposed rocks from the interior of the Moon. The observation and analysis of such rocks by camera will shed light on the origin and history of the Moon, according to JAXA.
SLIM will also carry two small robots, “LEV-1,” 26 cm in height, and spherical “LEV-2,” about 8 cm in diameter. The two robots will separate from SLIM just before landing and automatically move across the lunar surface to monitor SLIM’s landing status and photograph the surrounding environment.
JAXA has another mission named “OMOTENASHI (Outstanding Moon exploration TEchnologiesdemonstrated by NAno Semi-Hard Impactor [sic]), using its ultra-small satellite called “CubeSat.” OMOTENASHI will be launched by NASA in conjunction with its unmanned test flight of the next generation spacecraft “Orion.”