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Meet the Japanese 'moon sniper' that's just landed in the lunar orbit

Meet the Japanese 'moon sniper' that's just landed in the lunar orbit

The spacecraft is set to land on the Moon next month.

Japan has taken home the prize for the spacecraft with the coolest name: the moon sniper.

OK, that's not its official name - that would be the remarkably less sexy Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) - but moon sniper is its nickname, and it's making historic progress.

The spacecraft arrived in lunar orbit on Christmas Day, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced.

The spacecraft is set to land on the Moon next month.

"The lunar orbit of SLIM will be inserted into an elliptical lunar orbit connecting the Moon’s north and south poles with a period of approximately 6.4 hours, and altitude of about 600km at the closest point to the Moon (perilune), and 4,000km at the furthest point from the Moon (apolune)," the agency said in a statement.

"The orbit change proceeded as planned, and the spacecraft is currently in a normal condition."

This is all in preparation for a planned trip to the Moon - which would become Japan's first ever Moon landing.

The landing is scheduled for January 20, and it would be an historic one - only four nations have ever landed on the Moon so far: the Soviet Union, China, India and the US.

The rocket initially took off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan back in September, before releasing the SLIM.

"This is a lunar lander that aims to achieve a lightweight probe system on a small scale and use the pinpoint landing technology necessary for future lunar probes," JAXA has said.

"The project will aim to cut weight for higher function observational equipment and to land on resource scarce planets with an eye towards future solar system research probes."

The Moon is just the first stop for spacecrafts like this one.
LeonardoFernndezLzaro / 500px / Getty

Essentially, the aim of the project is for it to become "possible to land on planets even more resource scarce than the Moon".

It would be huge for the country, particularly as Japan has had two failed attempts to reach the Moon in recent years.

It's called the 'moon sniper' because it's aiming to stick the landing with pinpoint accuracy, and it's taking a fair amount of time to get there as it's traveling as fuel efficiently as possible.

And it's all very much a Japanese endeavor, with the spacecraft's computer and transponder both manufactured by Mitsubishi.

The craft is set to land near a lunar sea, and will investigate the composition of rocks to learn more about the origin of the Moon.

Featured Image Credit: ISAS / JAXA / MASTER / Getty