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Japan's space programs and moon missions

An optical observation satellite on H-IIA rocket is launched at Tanegashima Space Center

By Kantaro Komiya

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan aims to become the fifth country to put a spacecraft on the moon when it tries a precision landing on Friday.

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) is attempting to land within 100 metres (328 feet) of its target. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) says the technology will become essential to searching for water, and other factors that could sustain life on the moon.

Here's a timeline of some events in Japan's space programs leading up to the planned SLIM touchdown.

YEAR PROJECT DEVELOPMENT

1970 Ohsumi A University of Tokyo lab launched

the first Japanese satellite on a

homemade rocket, opening Japan's

space age. Aerospace engineering

was previously banned under a

U.S.-led occupation after the end

of World War II until 1952.

1990- Hiten Japan launched its first lunar

1993 probe and conducted navigational

experiments between the earth and

the moon. The spacecraft was

manually collided onto the moon at

the end of the mission.

2001- H-IIA The flagship medium-lift rocket

Prese has been successful at 47 of 48

nt launches, but JAXA plans to retire

it after two more launches and

replace it with low-cost H3.

2003- Hayabusa The spacecraft made a rendezvous

2010 on an asteroid named Itokawa in

2005 and marked the world's first

mission to deliver asteroid

samples to the earth in 2010.

2007- The lunar orbiter obtained

2009 Kaguya high-definition images of the

(SELENE) moon's surface and other

scientific data until manually

sent to crash onto the moon.

2014- The successor to Hayabusa touched

Prese Hayabusa2 down on the asteroid Ryugu in 2019

nt and brought a sample capsule back

to the earth in 2020. JAXA keeps

operating the craft to study

planetary defence from small

celestial objects approaching the

earth.

Octob Epsilon-6 JAXA manually destroyed the sixth

er model of Epsilon solid-fuel small

2022 rocket after launching because of

its deviant trajectory, marking

Japan's first rocket launch

failure since 2003.

Novem OMOTENASHI The small probe was meant to

ber achieve Japan's first soft landing

2022 on the moon. But JAXA lost contact

with it shortly after it was

launched as one of 10 secondary

payloads for the first mission of

NASA's Artemis Program.

March H3 JAXA manually destroyed the

2023- initial model of the new flagship

Prese rocket after launch due to engine

nt ignition trouble, causing

widespread delays in Japan's space

missions including SLIM. H3's

second model is set be launched on

Feb. 15, 2024.

April Hakuto-R Tokyo-based startup ispace inc

2023 Mission 1 attempted what could have been the

world's first private-sector lunar

landing, but the spacecraft

crashed onto the moon due to

altitude miscalculation. The

company plans to launch the second

mission in the fourth quarter of

2024.

July Epsilon S An engine of a new type of Epsilon

2023 small rocket exploded at JAXA's

testing site. The accident delayed

upcoming satellite launch plans,

including Vietnam's earth

observation satellite that was due

to be brought to space by the

first model of Epsilon S.

Septe SLIM JAXA launched SLIM two weeks after

mber Indian counterpart achieved its

2023- Chandrayaan-3 mission to the

Prese unexplored lunar south pole. SLIM

nt took a fuel-efficient four-month

trajectory to the moon and will

start a 20-minute touchdown phase

from 1500 GMT Friday.

Sources: JAXA, National Diet Library, Reuters reports

(Reporting by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Frances Kerry)