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Japan Succeeds in Putting a Rover on the Moon

On Jan. 19, Japan became the fifth nation to succeed in landing on the Moon. The Japanese “Smart Lander for Investigating Moon” (SLIM) lander carries a variety of scientific payloads, including two main engines with 12 thrusters, surrounded by solar cells, antennas, radar and cameras. It also carries two rovers, one, a hopping vehicle as big as a microwave oven and the other a baseball-sized wheeled rover—that will take pictures of the spacecraft. Keeping it lightweight was one objective of the project, as Japan aims to carry out more frequent missions in the future by reducing launch costs. SLIM weighs 700 kg (1,540 lb) at launch, less than half of India’s Chandrayaan-3. Shock absorbers make contact with the lunar surface in what the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) calls new “two-step landing” method—the rear parts touch the ground first, then the entire body gently collapses forward and stabilizes.

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