Japan to launch two probes to the moon

Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, say they are very enthusiastic about their mission of sending two small spacecraft to the moon.

The leaders of the teams operating the probes, named Omotenashi and Equuleus, met reporters on Friday.

The two spacecraft will be launched on Monday, Japan Time, aboard a large next-generation rocket called the SLS developed by the US space agency NASA.

Omotenashi has been developed to become Japan's first spacecraft to land on the moon. The probe will hit the moon's surface at a speed of 180 kilometers per hour, then send radio waves back to the Earth.

The spacecraft has been equipped with protective measures, including a shock-absorbing material.

Researchers hope to use data obtained by the mission to help make future lunar probes smaller and lighter.

Equuleus's mission is to reach a specific area on the far side of the moon. The team wants to see whether the probe can fly to locations important for space exploration without difficulty.

The Omotenashi team leader, Professor Hashimoto Tatsuaki, said controlling the probe is more difficult than developing it, so members have spent the past year doing operation simulations.

The Equuleus team leader, Professor Funase Ryu, said it's a very challenging project in which the small spacecraft has to carry out a lot of missions.