Fourth Time’s The Charm: Japan Successfully Launches a Rocket to Enter the Moon Race

Photo of the "moon sniper" rocket launch on Thursday Sep 7.

While August 30th famously had a super blue moon, for several Asian countries, the full moon this September is much more important. Tsukimi, a Japanese moon festival meaning “moon-viewing,” honors the Autumn moon. It is fitting and somewhat poetic, then, that Japan launched a rocket to enter the moon race at this culturally significant time. 

Since 1990, Japan has attempted to launch a rocket to the moon three times. In the first attempt, engineers lost communication with the spacecraft, and could not confirm a landing. On the second attempt, the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander crashed on the surface of the moon in April of this year after underestimating the altitude of one of the moon’s many craters. The third attempt was canceled before it even got off the ground due to bad weather.  However, with its successful fourth rocket launch attempt, Japan may be the fifth nation to actually land on the moon. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, known as JAXA, launched the rocket “to demonstrate Tokyo’s ability to land a lightweight, low-cost spacecraft on the Moon.” The Japanese project is also collaborating with NASA and European space agencies, carrying an X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite. The craft is planning to circle the moon for a month, and land on the near-side of the moon. 

Only the US, Russia, China, and India have successfully landed on the moon thus far. The United States was the first to land on the moon in 1969, and India most recently landed on the South Pole on the moon on August 23rd, 2023. 

That said, when you go out this month and gaze at the full moon or celebrate Tsukimi on September 29th, you may also contemplate the modern moon race. 

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