The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has confirmed that its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) will make the landing on the Moon on Friday (January 19).

JAXA, in a statement, said the lander is “ready to begin preparations for landing descent, based on operational results since insertion into lunar orbit and future plans”.

“Spacecraft conditions are currently normal,” the JAXA said in the statement.

SLIM will begin the landing descent on Friday (January 20) at around 0:00 JST.

The lunar landing is scheduled at 0:20 JST. If successful, Japan will become just the fifth country to successfully soft-land on the Moon, after Russia, the US, China, and India.

SLIM’s descent maneuver, that is the injection of propellant to control the spacecraft’s position and attitude, was successfully executed and completed on January 14, the agency said.

The SLIM spacecraft is further confirmed to be inserted into a circular orbit at the planned altitude of approximately 600 km. “SLIM inherits the history of previous lunar missions and opens the door to future lunar and planetary exploration with the next-generation landing technology!” JAXA Institute of Space and Astronautical Science wrote in a post on X.

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The agency had earlier noted that if the landing is not executed at the scheduled timing “a next opportunity is scheduled around February 16, 2024”.

If successful, SLIM aims to land on the slope of Shioli Crater, a relatively fresh, 300-meter-wide impact feature within Mare Nectaris, at 13 degrees south latitude and 25 degrees east longitude on the near side of the moon.

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JAXA said that SLIM, also known as “Moon Sniper” in Japanese, “aims to achieve a pinpoint landing with an accuracy of fewer than 100 meters”.

“This marks an unprecedentedly high-precision landing on a gravitational body such as the Moon, and the results are anticipated to contribute to the programs such as international space exploration that are currently under study,” the agency had said in an earlier statement. Japan has previously failed in two lunar landing attempts.

JAXA lost contact with the OMOTENASHI lander and scrubbed an attempted landing in November, while the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander, by Japanese startup ispace, crashed in April as it attempted to descend to the lunar surface.