JAXA Pins Hopes on New Moon Mission Amid a Year of Setbacks
TOKYO – Japan is gearing up to join the lunar exploration race, following closely on the heels of Russian and Indian moon missions. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is slated to launch its H2-A rocket this Sunday from the Tanegashima Space Center, southern Japan, with an anticipation to land on the moon early next year.
- This Weekend’s Launch: JAXA’s H2-A will embark with a cutting-edge imaging satellite and a compact lander, targeting a lunar touchdown by early 2024.
- Pressing Need for Success: Recent challenges, including multiple failed launches and data discrepancies, have cast a shadow on JAXA’s reputation, making the upcoming launch crucial for its credibility.
- JAXA’s Difficult Year: From the abrupt halt of the Epsilon rocket’s sixth launch due to a defective component in 2022, to a failed launch of the new H3 rocket, JAXA has faced numerous challenges.
- Mission’s Significance: Beyond its scientific relevance, the mission serves as a symbol of Japan’s resilience and capability in space exploration.
- Space Startups in Japan: Even as JAXA grapples with setbacks, Japanese space startups are drawing the agency’s support, indicating a collaborative approach to space innovation.
JAXA, once held in high esteem for its reliability in rocket launches, suffered a blow last year with the premature termination of its Epsilon rocket launch. The initial blow was followed by multiple setbacks, including an explosive engine test failure and the grounding of their next-generation H3 rocket.
The onus is now on JAXA to execute a flawless lunar mission, as experts opine that the agency may not recover from another misstep. As Professor Jiro Kasahara from Nagoya University aptly puts it, “Japan only has one shot at this.”
The challenges notwithstanding, Japanese space startups continue to show promise and resilience. Notably, Ispace Inc., after its near-successful moon landing earlier this year, is preparing for another mission by 2024.
JAXA’s upcoming launch is pegged with significant hopes. If all goes as planned, the H2-A will be deploying the “Small Lander for Investigating Moon” (SLIM), a compact lander expected to herald a new era of high-precision probes. Also onboard will be the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite, poised to provide valuable insights into the cosmos by studying plasma within stars and galaxies.
As Japan stands at the crossroads of space exploration, this mission might be a testament to the nation’s capability to learn and innovate from past challenges.