We have some of the most exciting space missions of 2024 already coming to fruition despite it only being January. While the Peregrine lander mission might not have gone as well as hoped, Japan’s Moon sniper is on course to land on the lunar surface as early as Friday, January 19. And, if you want to see history happen with your own eyes, you can watch it right here.
Japan’s historic SLIM probe entered lunar orbit late last month, preparing for a very iconic moon landing. While humanity has landed on the moon a number of times at this point, the SLIM lander has a different objective. It hopes to land on the moon within 100 meters of a specific target.
This is something that has been almost impossible to do in the past with such small probes due to the limited atmosphere that the Moon has and the technology that we have to rely on. The Moon sniper, as it has been called by many, lifted off in September and will attempt its lunar landing around 10:00 a.m. EST on Friday.
If successful, this mission will make the first lunar landing for Japan, and make it the third country to achieve such a feat in the 21st century. To help highlight the historic moment, the entire landing sequence will be streamed on YouTube in Japanese and English.
Despite how far the Moon sniper has come, the team members working on the SLIM mission say that the landing is expected to be a “numbing 20 minutes of terror” as they wait to see how the landing turns out. As I noted above, if it is successful, it will prove that we can land with higher precision than we have in the past with such a low-cost and lightweight spacecraft.
Yes, other spacecraft like NASA’s Apollo missions have achieved extreme accuracy when touching down. However, those missions were much heavier and more expensive, so they had much more tech and hardware working with them. SLIM, on the other hand, is a very paired-down mission that will test just how small things can be before we have trouble landing them with precision.
If the Moon sniper somehow misses the window for the landing attempt, then it will try once again on February 16.