Japan joins Moon race with successful rocket launch

Japan on Thursday successfully launched a rocket with a lunar lander at its fourth try this year, after previous attempts were foiled by bad weather, the BBC reports.

The lander, dubbed the “moon sniper”, is expected to attempt a Moon landing in February if all goes well.

Japan has twice failed to reach the lunar surface in the past year, amid setbacks for its space programme.

It is bidding to become only the fifth country to land on the Moon, after the US, Russia, China and India.

Two weeks ago, India made history when it successfully landed a spacecraft near the south pole of the Moon.

The Japanese spacecraft is projected to land within 100m (328ft) of a location near the Shioli crater, on the near side of the Moon.

It is expected to enter the Moon’s orbit within four months. It will then spend a month circling the Moon before attempting a landing in February.

The $100m (£59m) mission is meant to demonstrate Tokyo’s ability to land a lightweight, low-cost spacecraft on the Moon.

The rocket was also carrying the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite, a joint project between the Japanese, American and European space agencies.

The satellite, containing a telescope the size of a bus, has parted ways with the lunar lander to orbit around the Earth. It will now begin studying space phenomena such as black holes.

The successful launch follows a series of failures over the past year.

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