Japan joined an elite club last week when it successfully landed an unmanned probe on the moon.

The pinpoint landing of the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) was a huge boost for the confidence and credibility of this country’s space program, a project with important implications for Japan’s economy and national security.

The nation’s space program has a long history. More than a half century ago, it became the fourth country to put a satellite into orbit, following the Soviet Union, the United States and France. It has since put more than 300 satellites in orbit, consolidating its reputation as a serious spacefaring nation.