Japan's pinpoint spacecraft lands on the moon - but mission isn't total success

Detailed analysis is still needed to ascertain exactly where the spacecraft landed, ITV News' Science Correspondent Martin Stew reports

Japan has become the fifth country to have landed on the moon courtesy of its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, spacecraft, but officials need more time before they can deem the mission a success.

"The SLIM has been communicating to the earth station and is receiving command from the earth accurately and the spacecraft is responding to these in a normal way," a spokesperson said in a press conference following the landing, according to the event's translator.

But the team were unable to confirm whether or not the unmanned spacecraft had achieved it goal of landing within a landing zone just 100 metres wide.

Detailed analysis is still needed to ascertain exactly where the spacecraft landed, and the team "would need a little more time to be able to confirm on this point," they said.

Hitoshi Kuninaka, head of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, said there may be issues with the spacecraft's solar power panels, leaving it operating on batteries at the time of landing.

He described the mission so far as at least a "minimum" success.

The purpose of the mission was to for the SLIM to hit a very small target. Previous probes have had landing zones spanning around 10 kilometres.

The spacecraft had aimed to land near the Shioli crater, which is near a region of the moon covered in volcanic rock.

Staff of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) watch a live streaming of the pinpoint moon landing operation. Credit: AP

The SLIM itself is small and lightweight, and is designed with "pinpoint landing" technology that aims to give it better control than any other moon landing.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, has spent two decades working on the precision technology, which it hopes will allow moon missions to land “where we want to, rather than where it is easy to land."

Once settled on the moon, the spacecraft will seek out clues about the origin of the moon by analysing minerals with a special camera.

Japan follows the United States, Russia, China and India in having landed on the moon.

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