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Japan’s SLIM lander awaits solar revival on lunar surface

Despite the current power challenges, SLIM managed to transmit valuable technical and image data before the shutdown.

JAXA Chofu Aerospace Center
Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, sits powered down on the moon’s surface, holding the world’s attention as it awaits the potential revival by sunlight. This development followed the lander’s precision landing, which the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, celebrated as a major success.

SLIM’s journey, however, encountered an unexpected hitch shortly after its successful touchdown. The lander’s solar cells, essential for generating electricity, currently face away from the sun, rendering them inactive. The JAXA reported that the cells are pointing west, and if the sunlight shifts appropriately, they might spring back to life, offering a chance for the lander to resume operations.

Despite the current power challenges, SLIM managed to transmit valuable technical and image data before the shutdown, including information from its descent and time on the lunar surface. “Until power was switched off after landing, the technical and image data acquired during the landing descent and on the lunar surface were successfully transmitted. We’re currently conducting a detailed analysis, and are relieved to see that we obtained a lot of data,” the space agency said in a post on social media platform X.

JAXA disconnected the battery at a 12% power level, a planned move to prevent over-discharge and preserve the possibility of reactivation. The agency expressed optimism that the lander might resume operations once the solar conditions on the moon change. Notably, the lunar day, lasting about 29.5 Earth days, presents a unique challenge for the lander. It must endure the extreme cold of the lunar night, which could reach -200 degrees, in hopes that the solar cells will receive enough sunlight to recharge once the lunar day resumes.

Despite these challenges, JAXA remains hopeful and is preparing for a potential recovery. Officials have expressed their satisfaction with the mission’s achievements so far, including the deployment of two small rovers and the collection of significant data. An update on the spacecraft’s status and further insights into its landing orientation are expected later this week.

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