Japan successfully launched a rocket carrying a cutting-edge X-ray telescope and a small lunar lander on Thursday. Aimed at unravelling the mysteries of the universe’s origins. The launch took place from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan. It was broadcast live by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
“We have liftoff,” exclaimed the JAXA narrator as the rocket soared into the sky. Leaving behind a trail of smoke before disappearing over the Pacific Ocean.
Approximately thirteen minutes after liftoff, the rocket deployed a satellite known as the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, or XRISM, into Earth’s orbit. XRISM’s mission is to measure the speed and composition of the space between galaxies. Critical data for understanding the formation of celestial objects. Hopefully, it will uncover the enigmatic origins of the universe, as explained by JAXA.
A Stellar Partnership: JAXA and NASA’s Cosmic Quest
In partnership with NASA, JAXA will analyze light strength at different wavelengths, spatial temperature variations, and the shapes and brightness of celestial objects. David Alexander, the director of Rice Space Institute at Rice University, emphasized the significance of this mission. Particularly in studying hot plasma, a superheated matter prevalent in the universe. Hot plasma has diverse potential applications, from wound healing to semiconductor manufacturing and environmental cleanup.
“Understanding the distribution and dynamics of hot plasma in space will shed light on various phenomena. Including black holes, the evolution of chemical elements in the universe, and the formation of galactic clusters,” said Alexander.
Also on board the rocket is the Smart Lander of Japan for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, a lightweight lunar lander. SLIM is scheduled to reach lunar orbit in three to four months, with a landing attempt anticipated early next year, according to JAXA.
In a thrilling development, the lander successfully separated from the rocket approximately 45 minutes after launch and was en route to a lunar landing. JAXA’s team celebrated with applause and bows at their observation facility.
JAXA is actively developing “pinpoint landing technology” to improve the precision of future lunar probes and planetary landings. The Smart Lander is designed to be more accurate, aiming within approximately 100 meters (330 feet) of its intended target, offering greater safety and precision in choosing a landing site.
Aiming for the Moon: Japan’s Lunar Aspirations
This launch coincides with renewed global interest in lunar exploration. To date, only four nations—the United States, Russia, China, and India—have successfully landed on the moon. India recently achieved a significant milestone by landing a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole, while Russia experienced a recent setback in its lunar mission. In April, a Japanese private company, ispace, encountered difficulties during its moon landing attempt.
Japan’s space program has faced its share of challenges in recent times, including a failed rocket launch earlier this year. Nonetheless, Japan has now embarked on the recruitment of astronaut candidates, signalling its determination to send a Japanese astronaut to the moon.
The allure of the moon has captivated humanity for decades and with this latest endeavour. Japan joins the global effort to expand our understanding of the cosmos. Notably, the last human mission to the moon by NASA took place in 1972. With subsequent lunar exploration conducted primarily by robotic missions.