Japan’s SLIM Moon Lander and Its Toy-Inspired Lunar Explorer

By: | September 18th, 2023

Image by JAXA

Japan’s recent launch of the SLIM moon lander introduced a tiny lunar explorer inspired by a children’s toy. If the mission proceeds as intended, Japan’s SLIM lunar lander, launched on September 6 via an H-2A rocket, is poised to make history as the first Japanese spacecraft to execute a gentle landing on the moon’s surface.

SLIM, which stands for Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, is a probe developed by the Japanese space agency JAXA with the primary objective of showcasing Japan’s first soft lunar landing capability.

Japan’s Innovative Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2 (LEV-2)

Once it reaches its destination, the SLIM lander will deploy an innovative robotic explorer LEV-2. LEV-2 is a diminutive metallic sphere, slightly larger than a tennis ball in size. Its mission will involve traversing the lunar terrain and capturing imagery of the SLIM lander and the nearby lunar crater.

Toy-Inspired Innovation: How LEV-2 Moves on the Moon

When the lander approaches within approximately six feet of the lunar surface, it will release the 8.8-ounce spacecraft. This diminutive vehicle will then employ a unique approach, moving its two halves independently to traverse through the lunar regolith. This imaginative concept is directly inspired by the design principles found in children’s toys.

“We adopted robust and safe design technology inspired by children’s toys, which reduced the number of components used in the vehicle to a minimum and increased its reliability,” said Hirano Daichi, senior researcher and developer of the vehicle at JAXA, in a statement.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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