Landing! Japan lands on the moon, but mission control struggles to make contact with the lander

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The Japanese Slim mission (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) has already touched the Moon.

If it is proven to be a safe landing, Japan will become the fifth country to land on the Moon.

Slim has completed his descent to the lunar surface and we are waiting to confirm if the landing was a success.

JAXA, the Japanese space agency, confirmed the landing around 15:20 GMT after a risky 20-minute descent.

MailOnline will also bring you the latest updates as the landing progresses, so be sure to check back!

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will attempt to become the fifth nation to successfully land on the Moon today as Slim (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) prepares for its risky final descent to the lunar surface.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will attempt to become the fifth nation to successfully land on the Moon today as Slim (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) prepares for its risky final descent to the lunar surface.

Shortly after 11:00 p.m. Japanese Standard Time (3:00 p.m. GMT), Slim began his descent to the lunar surface.

JAXA says the lander is now on the surface of the Moon, having executed its 2-stage landing procedure.

However, it has not yet been confirmed whether the lander was able to land safely on dangerous terrain.

JAXA scientists are currently checking the status of the ship.

We will know very soon if the landing has been successful.

However, it may take weeks or months to determine how accurate the landing was.

Because JAXA aimed to land the spacecraft on the slopes of Shioli Crater, the spacecraft had a window of only 330 feet (100 m) to land safely.

According to JAXA, Slim is now on the lunar surface.  Images transmitted from the control room show that the craft had made the full 20-minute descent along its planned trajectory.

According to JAXA, Slim is now on the lunar surface. Images transmitted from the control room show that the craft had made the full 20-minute descent along its planned trajectory.

Slim's current trajectory (red) closely matches the planned route (white) and JAXA says the current speed is good as the lander enters the second boost stage.

Slim’s current trajectory (red) closely matches the planned route (white) and JAXA says the current speed is good as the lander enters the second boost stage.

Slim began his descent from a cruising altitude of 15 kilometers above the Moon, where he had been orbiting to control his speed.

After ascending to an altitude of 20 km, Slim began the first boost stage.

According to JAXA, the descent speed was kept in the correct window for the ship to retreat up to 25 km, at which point Slim entered coasting mode.

Descending under gravity until he was 15 km above, Slim entered a second inertial stage and used his ‘Smart Eyes’ imaging scan to find a landing site.

Slim carried out a series of additional controlled thrusts to align his speed and altitude with his planned trajectory.

When Slim reached 500 m, the first of three hover stages began.

After this stage, the spacecraft descended again, floating 50 m above the lunar surface to look for obstacles or rocks.

At less than 5 meters the final phase of hovering began, and the craft had to carefully balance its fuel consumption to ensure a soft landing.

At 2 meters the landing began in two steps during which Slim turned sideways, launched two robots and made his landing on the Moon.

This is the critical moment of the landing attempt, when Slim will have to make a challenging landing on a sloped surface surrounded by debris.

If something goes wrong during this final landing maneuver, the lander can tip over into a position from which it cannot be recovered.

JAXA scientists are currently waiting for Slim's descent to the lunar surface to begin;  Once the ship begins its landing procedure, it will land in 20 minutes.

JAXA scientists are currently waiting for Slim’s descent to the lunar surface to begin; Once the ship begins its landing procedure, it will land in 20 minutes.

Now on the screen you will be able to see a series of measurements that provide information about the ship, its location and its fuel status.

The red line on the graph indicates Slim’s current trajectory while the white line indicates his planned route.

This is the same telemetry that JAXA scientists observe in the flight control room.

About half of all lunar landing attempts have failed, with landing being the riskiest moment.

To make things even more difficult, JAXA is attempting a “soft landing,” meaning it wants to get the lander to the surface without damaging any of the equipment.

While being pulled down by the Moon’s gravity, Slim will have to constantly fire his rockets to slow down enough.

Slim will attempt a challenging soft landing on a slope near Shioli Crater.  To land safely, he will need to land within a 330-foot area, a level of precision so high that the project has earned the nickname 'Moon Sniper.'

Slim will attempt a challenging soft landing on a slope near Shioli Crater. To land safely, he will need to land within a 330-foot area, a level of precision so high that the project has earned the nickname ‘Moon Sniper.’

The goal of the mission is not only to land on the Moon but to continue building Japan’s ambitions in space.

Representatives from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) say a successful landing would pave the way for a future crewed landing on a pressurized rover.

Space agencies from around the world have written to wish JAXA good luck with the mission.

NASA Goddard Flight Center wrote in a tweet: “Good luck from your friends at NASA Goddard!”

However, the space agency doesn’t leave much to be desired with its new precision landing systems.

Last year, a lander launched by private Japanese company ISpace crashed into the moon when its onboard computer became confused about its altitude.

To ensure Slim doesn’t make the same mistake, JAXA has developed a ‘smart eyes’ system that quickly processes photographs of the surface to help guide the craft downward.

By comparing the moon’s pitted surface with data collected by previous landers, Slim can navigate with a much higher degree of precision.

However, JAXA is not making it easy for them and has chosen a particularly dangerous landing site.

The lander was launched in September from Tanegashima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture, last September.  In addition to the Slim lander, the rocket also carried an X-ray satellite created jointly by NASA.

The lander was launched in September from Tanegashima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture, last September. In addition to the Slim lander, the rocket also carried an X-ray satellite created jointly by NASA.

The rocket (pictured) carried Slim into its lunar orbit, where the lander is currently at an altitude of 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) above the lunar surface.

The rocket (pictured) carried Slim into its lunar orbit, where the lander is currently at an altitude of 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) above the lunar surface.

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