Japan’s precision moon probe ‘appears to have landed’

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Friday said its Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM) appeared to have landed on the lunar surface. 

SLIM, also known as the “moon sniper,” is attempting a highly precise landing — within 100 metres (about 330 feet) of its target compared with a conventional accuracy of several kilometers.

The 20-minute descent was set to begin at 1500 GMT/UTC on Friday.
The powered descent from its 15-kilometer (about 9.3-mile) includes a short phase of ascent before dropping close to the moon. It followed by a fully vertical descent from 7 kilometers. During the descent, the craft scans the potential landing site for rocks and boulders that might jeopardize a smooth touchdown. 

JAXA says the craft’s landing technology could be a powerful tool for the future exploration of hilly poles of the moon. Those areas are  potential source of resources necessary to sustain life — oxygen, fuel and water.

Achieving a soft landing would make Japan the fifth country to do so, after the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and India.