Japan has sent a small probe to the moon. A Japanese H2A carrier rocket successfully took off from Japan’s Tanegashima spaceport in the south-west of the island on Thursday morning (local time) in clear weather. In addition to the SLIM moon lander, there was also an X-ray telescope called XRISM on board, which is intended to explore the origins of the universe.

The rocket launch had previously been postponed several times due to poor weather conditions. Should Japan succeed with SLIM, the high-tech nation would become the fifth country to achieve a soft landing on the moon, after the former Soviet Union, the US, China and India.

India was only able to do this a few days ago after a Russian space probe had crashed on the moon. The lunar lander developed by the Japanese space agency Jaxa is intended to test technologies for future pinpoint landings on the lunar surface. SLIM is scheduled to enter lunar orbit about three to four months after launch and attempt to reach the surface of the moon in four to six months.

Artemis is supposed to bring people back to the moon

The data collected by Japan on the moon will be used as part of the US-led Artemis project. The aim of this project is to bring people back to the moon by 2025 and to advance the exploration of the moon. The wider goal is human exploration of Mars.

Japan is also working with the US space agency Nasa and the European Space Agency ESA on the XRISM mission (X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission). XRISM is designed to make observations of the hot gas-plasma wind blowing through galaxies in the Universe. It is hoped that this will provide information about the composition and development of celestial objects.

It was the first launch of a larger Japan-designed launch vehicle since a next-generation H3 rocket failed in March this year. The successor to the reliable H2 launch vehicle was Japan’s first new development of a large launch vehicle in around 30 years. Japan intends to establish itself firmly in the lucrative and increasingly competitive global satellite launch business. The H3 rocket program is also seen as important to Japan’s participation in space development, including the US-led Artemis program.