A Japanese explorer that recently landed on the Moon touched down around 55 meters from its target site, the country's space agency said Thursday, underscoring that its mission to land with unprecedented precision has been accomplished.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency had aimed to land the probe within 100 meters of the target site. It has received and analyzed data transmitted from the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, which landed on the satellite Saturday.

Its positioning accuracy was even estimated to be less than 10 meters, possibly around 3 to 4 meters, before starting maneuvers during descent to avoid obstacles on the lunar surface, JAXA added.

Previous Moon landers had an accuracy of within several to around a dozen kilometers and opted to descend in areas conducive to easier touchdowns, according to JAXA.

Supplied photo shows Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, (top R) on the Moon surface, taken on Jan. 20, 2024, by the SORA-Q tiny vehicle detached from the lander. (Photo courtesy of JAXA/Tomy Co./Sony Group Corp./Doshisha University) (Kyodo)

Japan has become the fifth country to land a spacecraft on the Moon after the former Soviet Union, the United States, China and India.

But after landing as planned at a site around the Shioli crater in a low-altitude region known as the "Sea of Nectar," SLIM's orientation was off, and it could not generate power as its built-in solar power panels were not properly facing the Sun.

The unexpected orientation may have resulted from one of the two main engines losing thrust at an altitude of 50 meters above the surface, the agency said. Power generation could start once the west side of the Moon starts getting sunshine, it said.

As the solar power generation was not functioning, the agency prioritized transmitting landing data before SLIM's battery ran out.

The spacecraft detached a palm-sized robot shortly before landing. JAXA said Thursday that the approximately 8-centimeter SORA-Q vehicle, jointly developed by Japanese toy maker Tomy Co. and others, has successfully taken an image of SLIM tilting over on the Moon's surface.


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