Japan: Moon Lander Slim comes back to Life and Resumes Mission

Japan’s Moon lander is back up and running after a temporary shutdown caused by a power supply problem.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced that contact with the lander was successfully restored on Sunday night, indicating that the issue had been resolved.

The solar cells have resumed operation thanks to a change in lighting conditions, enabling them to capture sunlight once again, according to the agency.

Unfortunately, it was unable to generate power upon landing on January 20th due to the solar cells facing away from the Sun.

Japan’s successful landing on the Moon with the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (Slim) spacecraft marks a significant achievement, making them the fifth country to accomplish this feat. The other countries that have achieved a soft touchdown on the Moon include the US, the former Soviet Union, China, and India.

The spacecraft operated on battery power for several hours before it was shut down to potentially regain electricity when the angle of sunlight shifted.

On X, formerly Twitter, Jaxa posted an interesting photograph captured by Slim. The image showcases a rock that Jaxa playfully referred to as a “toy poodle”.

The lander will analyse the composition of rocks in its search for clues about the origin of the moon, according to Jaxa.

Slim successfully touched down on the rim of Shioli, a crater located near the equator, coming within 55m (180 ft) of its intended landing spot. Jaxa characterised it as an extraordinary pinpoint landing.

The landing technology has the potential to enable future exploration of the hilly Moon poles, which are considered valuable sources of fuel, water, and oxygen, according to the agency.

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The Slim mission followed a series of unsuccessful attempts by Japan, including one by the start-up iSpace. Unfortunately, their lunar lander crashed due to confusion with its onboard computer regarding its altitude above the Moon.

Jaxa did not provide immediate information on the duration of Slim’s operations on the Moon. The lander was not originally intended to withstand the harsh conditions of a lunar night. During a lunar night, the Moon’s surface remains in darkness for approximately two weeks.

Historically, the task of landing on the Moon has been quite challenging. Approximately 50% of all attempts have been successful.

Before Japan, India was the most recent country to become a part of the exclusive group of nations that have accomplished this. In August 2023, the rover of Chandrayaan-3 successfully landed near the lunar south pole, marking a significant milestone as no human had ever reached that area on the Moon’s surface before.

In a recent incident, a spacecraft from the United States, operated by a private company, unfortunately met a fiery end over the Pacific Ocean during its lunar mission. Last year in August, a lunar spacecraft from Russia experienced a tragic crash into the Moon due to losing control.

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