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Japan's SLIM unexpectedly revived after predicted death: what happened on the Moon

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
SLIM turned out to be more stable than its developers thought. Source: Getty/JAXA/collage by OBOZ.UA

Japan's SLIM lunar module, which remained in working order despite having made a stunning landing on the Moon and then heroically survived its first short lunar night, has managed to surprise scientists once again. It returned to communication after a lunar night that lasted 14 days and a temperature drop of -130 degrees Celsius.

The Japanese space agency JAXA announced the unexpected return of the device to life. Scientists did not even hope that the device would be able to survive in such extreme conditions.

"Last night, a command was sent to SLIM and a response was received confirming that the spacecraft survived the lunar night and retained communication capabilities," the SLIM mission team said in a post on the X social network (formerly known as Twitter).

As OBOZ.UA previously reported, SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) made a successful, albeit stunning, landing on the Moon on January 19, 2024. It landed upside down on the surface of the Earth's satellite and was unable to immediately charge its batteries because its solar panels were facing the wrong way. As a result, it had to be put to sleep after just a few hours of operation.

Later, the mission team was able to revive it after a 9-day hibernation when the panels were exposed to sunlight and allowed the vehicle's battery to charge.

This allowed SLIM to operate successfully for several days and transmit scientific data to Earth until it had to be put back into hibernation on the eve of the 14-day lunar night. At that time, the mission leaders said goodbye to the device, as no one believed that it would be able to survive the temperature drop on the lunar surface to -130 degrees Celsius. The device was simply not designed for such a deep freeze.

When the new lunar night was over, the scientists gave the SLIM solar panels a chance to recharge the batteries and then decided to try their luck by sending a signal to the device. Imagine their surprise when SLIM turned out to be alive and responded to the "greeting".

It is reported that some of the device's equipment had temperatures above 100 degrees Celsius during the communication session, which is too hot for normal operation. Therefore, the first session after the device woke up was quite short, but when the Sun moves to a different position, it will not heat SLIM as much.

"Preparations are underway to resume work when the temperature of the devices cools down sufficiently," the mission team said.

Thus, Japanese scientists hope that the device will operate successfully for the next few days until the onset of a new lunar night when it will be put back into sleep mode. During its first awakening, SLIM conducted multispectral observations of the vicinity of the Shioli crater, including various rocks.

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