Japan Launches XRISM Space Telescope and SLIM Lunar Lander
On September 7, 2023, at 8:42:11 am (Japan Standard Time, JST), an exciting moment unfolded at the Tanegashima Space Center as the X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) and the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) embarked on their journeys into space.
This remarkable mission was launched aboard the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 47 (H-IIA F47), and it went off without a hitch.
As the clock ticked away, the launch vehicle followed its planned trajectory flawlessly. Approximately 14 minutes and 9 seconds after liftoff, the moment of truth arrived when XRISM was successfully separated from the launch vehicle. Then, at about 47 minutes and 33 seconds after launch, SLIM followed suit, marking another major milestone in the mission.
Both XRISM and SLIM are of great significance to the Japanese space agency, representing a leap forward in their exploration and research endeavors. This dual mission holds the promise of unlocking new insights and discoveries in the realm of space exploration, adding to the rich tapestry of human knowledge about our universe.
The XRISM mission is all about delving into the fascinating world of X-rays emitted by celestial objects. Its main goal is to deepen our understanding of the universe by studying these X-rays that originate from incredible phenomena like black holes, neutron stars, and galaxy clusters. The name XRISM, short for X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, really drives home the fact that it’s all about both imaging and spectroscopy.
XRISM has some ambitious objectives in its sights. It’s set to bring us groundbreaking discoveries in various scientific areas. These include shedding light on how the universe’s largest structures have evolved, uncovering the behavior of matter when it’s under the crushing grip of intense gravitational forces, understanding the spin of black holes, peering into the inner workings of neutron stars, and unraveling the complex physics behind particle jets. In a nutshell, XRISM is on a mission to unlock some of the universe’s most intriguing mysteries.
As the name implies, the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, has its sights set on exploring the Moon’s surface. Its primary mission objective is to showcase its impressive precision landing capabilities on the lunar surface. This represents a significant advancement compared to previous missions, which had to settle for broader landing zones. Achieving such precision in lunar landings opens up exciting possibilities for focused scientific investigations and ensures the safe placement of future spacecraft, both crewed and uncrewed, in specific areas of interest.
To accomplish this impressive feat, SLIM is equipped with state-of-the-art guidance, navigation, and control technologies. These cutting-edge systems enable the lander to make real-time decisions during its descent, allowing it to steer clear of obstacles like boulders and craters with finesse.
SLIM has its sights set on a landing site in the Procellarum KREEP Terrane region on the Moon. This location holds particular scientific intrigue due to the presence of specific types of lunar rocks that can provide valuable insights into the Moon’s early volcanic activity and its overall geological history.
What’s noteworthy about SLIM is its compact size compared to some of its lunar lander counterparts. This reflects JAXA’s commitment to a “smart” and efficient design philosophy. Its smaller footprint also serves as a potential model for future small-scale lunar exploration missions, emphasizing the importance of doing more with less in the realm of space exploration.