Japanese Landing on the Moon is Threatened by a Malfunction

A Japanese robot has landed on the Moon, but unfortunately, its solar power system is causing some issues, which could limit the duration of the mission to just a few hours.

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (Slim) successfully landed on the lunar surface near an equatorial crater.

The achievement marked a significant milestone for the Asian nation, as it became one of just five countries to successfully land on Earth’s natural satellite, joining the ranks of the US, the Soviet Union, China, and India.

Engineers are currently working tirelessly to salvage the mission.

It is still unclear why the craft’s solar cells are unable to generate electricity.

This leaves Slim completely dependent on its batteries, which will eventually run out of power. Once that happens, the vessel will fall into complete silence. It will not be able to receive commands or communicate with Earth.

Engineers are currently focusing on their tasks.

They’ve deactivated the heaters and are removing pictures from the craft. Additionally, they are gathering data to assess the performance of the landing software.

Jaxa officials are determined to continue their efforts even if Slim stops transmitting. There is a chance that the solar cells may have been positioned in a manner that obstructs their view of the Sun.

According to officials, there is a possibility of Slim coming back to life as the light angles change on the Moon.

During a press conference, Jaxa vice president, Hitoshi Kuninaka, expressed confidence in Japan’s ability to achieve a soft landing.

“Had the powered descent not been successful, a collision with the surface at an extremely high speed would have occurred, resulting in the complete loss of spacecraft function,” he informed reporters.

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“However, the data is still being transmitted to us without any issues, indicating that our initial goal of achieving a gentle landing has been accomplished.”

Slim successfully deployed two small rovers as intended, according to telemetry data.

The craft, equipped with an infrared camera, was scheduled to spend the next two weeks conducting a detailed analysis of the surrounding geology. The extent to which this investigation can be completed within the given timeframe remains uncertain.

Historically, it has been extremely challenging to successfully reach the Moon. Only around 50% of all attempts have been successful.

Jaxa embraced cutting-edge precision-navigation technologies.

The lander’s onboard computer utilised advanced image processing and precise crater mapping techniques to navigate safely towards its designated touchdown location.

Engineers had aimed to reach a distance of 100m (330ft) from their intended location and will now analyse the data to evaluate Slim’s performance. However, it seems that the technologies performed as intended.

“Based on the trace data analysis, it appears that Slim successfully executed a precise landing with an impressive accuracy of 100m.” As previously mentioned, we had anticipated that it would require approximately one month to thoroughly analyse the information,” Mr. Kuninaka stated.

Slim initiated its descent manoeuvres from an altitude of 15km (9 miles) at midnight on Saturday, Japan Standard Time (15:00 GMT, Friday). The touchdown happened shortly after 15:20 GMT.

The landing location, situated near Shioli Crater, is currently illuminated by sunlight. However, in a few weeks, the darkness of lunar night will once again envelop the area.

When that occurs, temperatures will drop significantly, posing a risk of damaging electronic circuit boards.

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Jaxa has successfully landed robots on asteroids in the past, making this Moon touchdown another impressive achievement for the organisation.

It will have important roles in the US space agency’s (Nasa) Artemis programme, aiming to return humans to the lunar surface after a long absence.

Last year, a private Japanese company, iSpace, attempted a landing. The Hakuto-R craft experienced a crash due to a confusion in its onboard computer regarding its altitude above the Moon.

On Thursday, the private American company Astrobotic successfully completed the disposal of its Peregrine landing craft in Earth’s atmosphere. Due to a propulsion fault, the spacecraft was unable to make a touchdown attempt.

Dr Simeon Barber, a researcher from the UK’s Open University, had instrumentation on Peregrine.

He acknowledged the Japanese effort.

“To me, this was all about achieving a precise landing.” That’s quite an accomplishment. “I’d be really happy if I was them,” he said in an interview with BBC.

“We are currently experiencing a surge in lunar missions, involving numerous participants.” By gathering all the knowledge gained from these endeavours, whether they were successful or not, we can collectively improve our ability to plan and execute missions in the future.

Similarly, according to Dr. Emma Gatti of the digital magazine Spacewatch Global, Japan has plenty of reasons to be proud. This achievement is truly historic and adds to their prestige. It holds great significance for Japan as a nation, showcasing the success that can be achieved by a country of smaller size compared to China or the US. The investments made further emphasize this point.

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