The Smart Lander for Exploration of the Moon (SLIM) is nicknamed the Moon Sniper because it is designed to land within 100 meters of a specific target on the surface of the Moon.
If the mission succeeds, Japan will become the fifth country to land probes on the moon, after the United States, Russia, China and India.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said in a statement on Monday that the SLIM probe “successfully entered lunar orbit at 16:51 pm Japan time” (07:51 GMT).
The agency added: “Its course has been changed as originally planned, and there is nothing unusual about the conditions of the investigation.”
He pointed out that the spacecraft's descent towards the moon is expected to begin on January 20 at around 12:00 midnight Japanese time, and it is scheduled to land on the surface 20 minutes later.
After three delays due to bad weather, the H-IIA rocket lifted off from the southern island of Tanekashima carrying the lander in September.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said this month it had made an “unprecedented high-precision landing” on the moon's surface.
The lander was equipped with a spherical probe developed in collaboration with a toy company. It is slightly larger than a tennis ball and can change its shape to move across the surface of the moon.
Compared to previous probes that landed “more than a few to 10 kilometers” from designated targets, the SLIM probe's margin of error of less than 100 meters represents a level of precision previously thought impossible, thanks to the researchers' 20-year effort. , according to JAXA.
As technology advances, the need to identify targets such as craters and rocks on the moon's surface is increasing, Shinichiro Sakai, SLIM program manager at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, explained to reporters this month.
“Gone are the days when exploring somewhere on the moon was desirable,” he said.
Sakai added that hopes are high that SLIM's resolution will make it easier to sample lunar permafrost and bring scientists one step closer to unraveling the mystery surrounding the moon's water sources.
Japanese missions have failed twice in the past, one public and one private.
Last year, the country failed to send a lunar probe, Omodenashi, as part of the US Artemis 1 mission.
Last April, Japanese startup iSpace failed to become the first private company to land on the moon, losing contact with its vehicle after what it described as a “hard landing.”
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