Japan launched a lunar exploration spacecraft on Thursday aboard a homegrown H-IIA rocket, hoping to become the world's fifth country to land on the moon early next year. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said the rocket took off from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan as planned and successfully released the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM). Dubbed the "moon sniper", Japan aims to land SLIM within 100 metres of its target site on the lunar surface. Two earlier lunar landing attempts by Japan failed in the last year. JAXA plans a joint Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (LUPEX) with the Indian Space Research Organisation beyond 2025, in which Japan's H3 rocket will carry India's next lunar lander into space.