Japan’s space agency announced this week that by 2018, the country would land an unmanned rover on the surface of the moon. China did it already and was very successful about it.
CNN reported that Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) revealed its plan to the members of the cabinet and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry’s, an expert panel.
JAXA spokesperson told reporters that this is an initial step and a lot of procedures are still ahead before the plan will be approved.
Japanese media estimates that the mission will cost in the region of ¥10 billion to ¥15 billion ($83.4 million – $125 million). For Chihito Onda, JAXA spokesperson said that this projection was realistic.
In case the plan is approved, reportedly the agency will employ its Epsilon solid-fuel rocket technology to carry and deploy a SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) onto the surface of satellite. They are certain of that this will become the latest in a string of successful Japanese space endeavors.
In 2008, the SELENE – in Japanese known as Kaguya, the Japanese moon princess from a 10th century folk tale – probe orbited the Moon and returned data on the lunar surface. The data collected by the craft will be used to determine favorable landing for their rover in the future.
Recent successful space missions were carried out by other Asian nations, such as China’s Yutu lunar rover and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission. If this mission will be successful, Japan will be one of only four nations to land rover on the lunar surface, the other three being the United States, former Soviet Union, and China.
Onda said that one of the main undertakings of the landing will be to perfect soft-landing technologies, which could be used in future manned missions to the moon or possibly to Mars. The craft will have a face detection software like in digital cameras, which empower the lander to recognize craters on the surface of the moon.
JAXA has also successfully landed a probe on the surface of an asteroid, which in 2010 returned to Earth.
Japan has one of the most advanced technology in the world when it comes to building anything. Going to the moon will be like a walk in the park for them.