“Spacecraft from Japan successfully lands on moon while Axiom embarks on third voyage with SpaceX”

For the second week in a row, we have lunar lander news to report on. Story of the weekHow could the story of the week be anything other than SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon), the Japanese lunar lander that touched down on the moon on Friday? But even with the issue, the mission achieved a huge portion of its goal, which was to demonstrate a soft lunar landing using optical navigation technology. Launch highlightsWe saw our first crewed mission this year – but even more notably, it was a completely private mission (as in not a NASA astronaut mission). Axiom Space launched its third mission with launch partner SpaceX on Thursday, with the crew successfully docking with the International Space Station at 5:42 AM EST on Saturday, January 20.

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space! We’ve had quite a week filled with exciting news from the world of space exploration. From lunar landers to crewed missions, here’s all the latest updates and stories in the realm of space technology.

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Story of the week:

This week’s top story is the successful landing of the SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon), a Japanese lunar lander that touched down on the moon on Friday. This makes Japan the fifth country to successfully land on the moon, joining the ranks of the United States, China, Russia, and India. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed that they had received telemetry data from SLIM just after 10:20 AM EST.

While the landing was a success, there were some complications. JAXA reported that the lander’s solar cells are not generating electricity, which will greatly reduce the mission’s lifetime. There is a small chance that the issue could be resolved as the angle of the sun changes, but it ultimately depends on the cause of the problem, whether it be a pointing issue or some other anomaly, according to JAXA officials.

Despite this setback, the mission still accomplished a major goal, which was to demonstrate a soft lunar landing using optical navigation technology. This new technology aims to achieve “pinpoint” landings with an accuracy of around 100 meters, a significant improvement from previous landings with an accuracy of several kilometers.

Launch highlights:

The biggest launch of the week was the first crewed mission of the year, and it was also the first completely private mission without any NASA astronauts on board. Axiom Space launched their third mission in partnership with SpaceX on Thursday, and the crew successfully docked with the International Space Station on Saturday, January 20, at 5:42 AM EST.

Axiom has plans to continue flying these private missions to the ISS at a rate of two per year until 2026. By then, they hope to launch their first commercial space station module. Derek Hassmann, Chief of Mission Integration and Operations at Axiom Space, stated in a pre-launch press conference that their fourth flight, Ax-4, is scheduled for later this year, but a specific launch window has not yet been announced.

What we’re reading:

One interesting perspective on NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program and their willingness to take on more risk comes from Space.com journalist Loren Grush. She discusses how this program, designed to kickstart the development of payload delivery services to the moon’s surface, is a departure from NASA’s usual risk-management methods.

Grush also delves into the recent failure of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander, which was a result of a CLPS award. While the mission was not a success, Grush explains NASA’s reasoning behind creating a more risk-tolerant program like CLPS.

This week in space history:

In 1992, NASA launched the first International Microgravity Laboratory on board the space shuttle Discover, marking the birth of microgravity research. This lab, which was pressurized and carried a crew of seven, conducted numerous experiments and studies on the effects of zero G on materials and living organisms. The mission lasted eight days before the crew returned to Earth, paving the way for future microgravity research missions.

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Ava Patel

Ava Patel is a cultural critic and commentator with a focus on literature and the arts. She is known for her thought-provoking essays and reviews, and has a talent for bringing new and diverse voices to the forefront of the cultural conversation.

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