Japan’s lunar probe Equuleus enters orbit

Equuleus project team
This far side of the moon is seen in this photo taken from the lunar probe Equuleus.

Japan’s small lunar probe Equuleus has entered its scheduled orbit, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Equuleus is a water-fueled probe. It was launched Nov. 16 on a NASA rocket together with Omotenashi, which tried but failed to become the nation’s first moon lander.

According to JAXA, Equuleus entered its scheduled orbit after approaching the moon early Tuesday, and will reach its destination point behind the moon from the Earth in about 18 months.

Equuleus is heading for what is called a Lagrange point, a location in space where the balance of gravitational forces will allow it to remain in place. JAXA has said this is a suitable spot for building a logistics base around the moon in the future.

“We hope to test the technology for reaching this point using less fuel,” JAXA said.

During its approach, Equuleus succeeded in photographing the opposite side of the moon from an altitude of 5,550 kilometers. The photo clearly showed the boundary between day and night, and numerous craters on the moon.