Posted on October 3rd, 2023

Out Of This World – The SLIM Moon Lander and Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2

The realm of space exploration is constantly evolving and improving, allowing us to venture further into the depths of the cosmos. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) recently made a notable contribution to space technology in the form of their Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) project. The SLIM lander is a groundbreaking project that promises to unlock new frontiers on Earth’s celestial neighbor.

SLIM is Japan’s first lunar surface mission, and the craft will demonstrate pinpoint landing capabilities. Dubbed the ‘moon sniper’, the craft is expected to land within 100 meters of its targeted site, a lunar basin called Mare Nectaris, which creates one of the dark spots on the Moons’ visible face. The craft will identify its landing location using technology similar to facial recognition systems with data collected by the SELENE lunar orbiter mission. In addition to increased landing accuracy, the SLIM mission objectives include accelerating the study of the Moon and other planets using lighter exploration systems.

Watch SLIM in action with this artist concept video showing how it moves across difficult terrain. (Credit: Takara TOMY)

The SLIM Moon lander includes a tiny robot, designed for exploring lunar terrain, whose design was inspired by a children’s toy. The palm-sized Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2 (LEV-2) looks and acts a bit like a pill bug insect. It can shift from a rolling sphere to crawling mode, in which the ball expands and can then “crawl” by wiggling side to side. The design of the robot was a collaboration with TOMY toys and Doshisha University. The tiny lunar explorer is equipped with two cameras developed by Sony Group, which it will use to help navigate its surroundings and record data to transmit back to earth. To see a video of how this amazing, miniscule robot moves, click here.

The SLIM and LEV-2 represent a significant leap forward in lunar exploration and will serve as crucial precursors to future Moon missions. Their successful deployment and operation will pave the way for more ambitious endeavors in the future. As the SLIM embarks on its mission, the global scientific community eagerly awaits the wealth of information it will provide, furthering humanity’s quest to unlock the mysteries of the moon one space mission at a time.

Katie Nelson
Geospatial Ninja
(303) 718-7163

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