Following several setbacks due to inclement weather, Japan successfully launched a rocket carrying the lunar lander Moon Sniper on Thursday. The mission aims to place Japan as the fifth nation to achieve a lunar landing.

The launch marks the country’s fourth attempt this year to reach the lunar surface.

Moon Sniper is now on the way to the Moon, with plans to attempt a landing in February, provided all operations proceed successfully. If the mission becomes successful, Japan will join the ranks of the United States, Russia, China, and India.

India achieved a milestone with a lunar landing near the Moon’s south pole recently, adding to the global momentum in lunar exploration efforts.

Japan’s Moon Sniper lunar lander has set its sights on touching down within 100 metres (328 feet) of the Shioli crater on the Moon’s near side. Moon Sniper is expected to enter the Moon’s orbit over the next four months. It will spend approximately a month circling the Moon, preparing for its landing in February.

With a budget of US$100 million, the mission aims to demonstrate Japan’s capacity to land a lightweight and cost-effective spacecraft on the lunar surface. This goal aligns with Tokyo’s broader strategy to prove its prowess in space technology.

In addition to the lunar lander, the rocket also carried the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite, a collaborative project involving Japanese, American, and European space agencies. Equipped with a telescope the size of a bus, this satellite will orbit Earth, focusing on studying phenomena like black holes.

In November, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) lost contact with its OMOTENASHI spacecraft, leading to the mission’s cancellation. In April, a private Japanese start-up named iSpace also faced failure when it lost contact with its Hakuto-R lander, preventing it from landing on the Moon as planned. Two more test rocket launches failed this year, with the most recent setback occurring in July due to engine issues, leading to an explosion.