Japan Becomes 5th Country to Reach the Moon

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TOKYO — Japan became the fifth country in history to reach the moon when its spacecraft landed on the lunar surface early Saturday, officials said.

But officials still were trying to determine whether they could classify the feat as a total success, because they needed more time to analyze whether the spacecraft, which wasn't carrying astronauts, made a pinpoint landing. There could also be an issue with the power supply.

Hitoshi Kuninaka, head of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, said they believe that rovers were launched and data were being transmitted back to Earth. But the lander may have a problem with its solar power panels, and appears to be operating only on batteries for the moment.

Kuninaka said he believes they at least achieved “minimum” success.

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, landed at about 12:20 a.m. Tokyo time on Saturday (1520 GMT Friday).

There was a tense wait for news after the Japan space agency's mission control initially said that SLIM was on the lunar surface, but that it was still “checking its status.” No further details were given until a news conference nearly two hours later.

Japan follows the United States, the Soviet Union, China and India in reaching the moon.

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