Japan Successfully Launches Rocket and Sends Lunar Lander to the Moon

Japan's space ambitions took flight today with the successful launch of the H-IIA rocket, marking the nation's renewed determination to etch its mark on lunar history.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Japan Successfully Launches Rocket and Sends Lunar Lander to the Moon
© Getty Images News/Bill Ingalls

Japan's space ambitions took flight today with the successful launch of the H-IIA rocket, marking the nation's renewed determination to etch its mark on lunar history. Following three thwarted attempts this year, all due to inclement weather, the rocket finally soared into the azure, embarking on a journey to ferry the lunar lander to the Moon.

Resilience in the Face of Adversity

Past setbacks have not deterred the Japanese spirit. Over the past year, Japan faced two unsuccessful attempts to land on the lunar surface. These challenges, rooted in complications within the country's space program, have only fueled their drive for success.

With this mission, Japan aspires to join the prestigious league of countries—consisting of the US, Russia, China, and India—that have successfully achieved a moon landing. Interestingly, India recently made headlines with its soft landing near the Moon's south pole just a fortnight ago.

Setting its sights on the "near" side of the Moon, Japan's lander is strategically planned to touch down a mere 100 meters from the Shioli crater.

A Glimpse into the Mission's Timeline and Goals

Projected to enter lunar orbit in four months, the spacecraft will then orbit our natural satellite for an additional month, with the landmark landing slated for February.

This $100 million endeavor is not just about landing on the Moon; it symbolizes Tokyo's capability to successfully send a lightweight and cost-effective spacecraft to lunar terrain. Yet, the H-IIA rocket had more than just the lunar lander onboard.

Accompanying it is the XRIMS satellite (X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission), a collaborative venture between Japanese, American, and European space agencies. This behemoth satellite—outfitted with a telescope as large as a bus—has since detached from the lunar lander.

Its mission? To delve deep into space, unlocking the mysteries of phenomena like black holes.

Reflecting on Past Hurdles

While today's successful launch inspires hope, it's essential to acknowledge the challenges that have paved the way here.

Last November, JAXA faced disappointment when they lost contact with the OMOTENASHI spacecraft, subsequently abandoning their moon landing mission. Another significant setback occurred in April when iSpace, a private Japanese startup, tried and failed to land the Hakuto-R lander, once again losing contact.

Moreover, this year has already witnessed two rocket failures, with the latest in July caused by an engine malfunction leading to a calamitous explosion.

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