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Japanese acrobat spacecraft revived after 9 days of silence on the Moon: what is known

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
SLIM has only a few days to work on the Moon. Source: JAXA/James McCarthy/collage by OBOZ.UA

Nine days after its historic, albeit stunning, landing on the moon, Japan's Smart Lunar Exploration Lander (SLIM) has made contact with Earth. This indicates that the solar panels on the vehicle remained intact, despite the fact that it was upside down on the satellite.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reported the restoration of communication. The SLIM lunar landing made Japan the fifth country in the world to successfully complete such a mission.

SLIM landed on the Moon on January 19, 2024. In addition to being a historic mission for Japan, it was also extremely successful in terms of using new technology that allowed the vehicle to land just 55 meters from its intended destination.

Although JAXA immediately realized that a soft landing had occurred, it soon became apparent that the lunar vehicle was unable to get a battery charge. It was assumed that the solar panels of the vehicle were not oriented to the Sun, and therefore unable to generate energy for operation.

For a little over 2 hours, SLIM managed to collect and send data and images to Earth using its backup power, but eventually it was forced into power saving mode when the battery charge reached 12%.

SLIM on the lunar surface

Subsequently, the small research rovers that were shot off during the landing sent back a photo to Earth that helped to find out what exactly happened and why the panels were not charging the battery. It turned out that the vehicle had made a soft landing, but ended up upside down on the lunar surface, causing its panels to be turned away from the Sun. There was also speculation that the spacecraft could have even damaged the solar panels, but it was not.

JAXA then reported that this problem would be resolved by itself when the Sun changed its position relative to SLIM and recharged its batteries. Eventually, this happened.

Now JAXA has managed to re-establish communication with SLIM, having received a message from the spacecraft on January 28. The sun allowed the lander to continue its scientific operations, and it has already begun analyzing the composition of rocks near the landing site.

At the same time, even with the additional power, the spacecraft has limited time to make measurements. The lunar night will begin on Thursday, February 1, and will last for 14 days, and JAXA has previously stated that the lander is not designed to survive in the dark and at low temperatures.

If the vehicle does fail during the 14 days of darkness and cold, two research rovers will remain on the lunar surface. They will continue to explore and send information to JAXA.

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