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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Revival of Japan’s Moon Lander Slim Sparks Mission Resumption

Japan’s lunar lander has recommenced operations following a one-week hiatus caused by a power supply issue. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency reported that contact with the lander was re-established on Sunday night, indicating successful resolution of the glitch.

The lander’s solar cells are now operational again, benefitting from a change in lighting conditions that allowed sunlight to be captured, according to the agency. Initially, on January 20, the lander couldn’t generate power as its solar cells were pointed away from the sun.

Japan, with its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (Slim) spacecraft, became the fifth country to achieve a soft moon landing, joining the ranks of the US, the former Soviet Union, China, and India.

The spacecraft relied on battery power for several hours before authorities decided to temporarily turn it off, anticipating potential electricity recovery when sunlight angles changed.

Jaxa, formerly Twitter, shared a photo taken by Slim of a nearby rock that resembled a toy poodle. The lander’s mission involves analyzing rock composition to uncover insights into the moon’s origin.

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Slim achieved an extraordinary pinpoint landing at the edge of the equatorial crater Shioli, within 55 meters (180 feet) of its target. Jaxa described it as an unprecedented accomplishment in precision landing technology.

The successful landing could pave the way for future exploration of hilly moon poles, regarded as potential sources of fuel, water, and oxygen, according to the agency.

While Jaxa couldn’t provide an exact operational duration for Slim on the moon, it previously mentioned that the lander wasn’t designed to survive a lunar night lasting about 14 days when the surface is not exposed to sunlight.

Landing on the moon has proven statistically challenging, with only about half of all attempts succeeding. Prior to Japan, India achieved a lunar landing with its Chandrayaan-3 rover near the lunar south pole in August 2023, marking an unprecedented milestone.

Recent lunar missions, including a US spacecraft that ended in flames over the Pacific and Russia’s lunar spacecraft crashing into the moon after losing control, underscore the difficulties and risks associated with lunar exploration.

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