Japan's SLIM space probe entered the moon's orbit on Monday in a major step towards the country's first successful lunar landing, expected next month.

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) is nicknamed the "moon sniper" because it is designed to land within 100 meters of a specific target on the lunar surface.

If successful, the touchdown would make Japan only the fifth country to have successfully landed a probe on the moon, after the United States, Russia, China and India.