The Japanese Moon Lander Has Come Back To Life

After a brief shutdown owing to a power supply problem, Japan’s Moon lander, which is a component of the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (Slim) mission, has successfully resumed operations. On Sunday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) declared that the fault had been fixed as contact with the lander had been restored.

Due to their original orientation away from the Sun, the spacecraft’s solar cells failed to produce any electricity upon landing on January 20. But when the illumination changed, the solar cells were able to receive sunlight, which allowed the lander to work again.

Slim made history as Japan became the fifth country to achieve a soft touchdown on the Moon, joining the ranks of the US, the former Soviet Union, China, and India. The spacecraft executed an unprecedented pinpoint landing at the edge of the equatorial crater known as Shioli, landing within 55 meters of its intended location.

Jaxa shared a photograph taken by Slim of a nearby rock, affectionately nicknamed a “toy poodle,” on social media platform X. The lander’s primary objective is to analyze the composition of lunar rocks to glean insights into the Moon’s origin.

The successful landing technology employed by Slim could pave the way for future exploration of hilly Moon poles, regarded as potential sources of fuel, water, and oxygen.

While Jaxa did not specify the duration of Slim’s operations on the Moon, the agency had previously mentioned that the lander was not designed to survive a lunar night, which lasts approximately 14 days when the Moon’s surface is not exposed to sunlight.

Japan’s achievement comes after earlier lunar landing attempts, including a crash by the start-up iSpace’s lunar lander, which faced complications with its onboard computer.

Landing on the Moon remains a challenging endeavor, with only about half of all attempts historically proving successful. Japan’s success follows India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, whose rover touched down near the lunar south pole in August 2023, marking a milestone in lunar exploration.

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