Japan’s SLIM Resumes Operations Following Upside-Down Landing
Japan’s lunar lander, Moon Sniper, has successfully resumed operations after an unconventional landing on 20 January left it stranded upside down in a lunar crater. The probe, officially named SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon), encountered a glitch as it touched down in a crater, causing its solar batteries to face the wrong direction and hindering electricity generation.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) swiftly prioritised transmitting critical landing data before SLIM’s batteries were depleted. JAXA aimed to make use of potential sunlight exposure on the west side of the moon in the coming days, anticipating a chance for the lander to recharge.
JAXA re-established communication with SLIM, marking the resumption of operations. The agency initiated scientific observations using the multi-band camera (MBC), capturing the first light for a 10-band observation.
Among the notable findings is an image captured by SLIM of a rock named “toy poodle” near the lander, a glimpse into the unique terrain of the lunar surface.
SLIM’s precision in landing is commendable, as it achieved its goal by landing within an impressive 55 metres of its intended target. This level of accuracy surpasses the typical landing zone range estimated by experts, which is usually several kilometres. The chosen landing site, a crater where the moon’s mantle is believed to be exposed on the surface, reflects the mission’s scientific goals.
Approximately three hours after landing, with 12% power remaining, JAXA decided to temporarily switch off SLIM, anticipating a potential resumption of operations when the sun’s angle changed.
Two probes detached from SLIM after landing – one equipped with a transmitter and another designed to explore the lunar surface while transmitting images to Earth. The latter includes a shape-shifting mini-rover, slightly larger than a tennis ball, co-developed by a company known for Transformer toys.
Japan’s success with SLIM’s landing makes it the fifth nation, after the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and India, to achieve a soft lunar landing. This accomplishment is significant in light of two previous Japanese lunar missions, one public and one private, which faced setbacks. In 2022, the lunar probe named Omotenashi, part of the United States’ Artemis 1 mission, was also unsuccessful.
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