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Japan’s SLIM Moon lander back on line thanks to sunshine

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Japan's SLIM Moon lander back on line thanks to sunshine

Japan’s SLIM lunar lander is back online and transmitting data. JAXA has confirmed that the Sun has moved into a position where light is landing on the robotic spacecraft’s solar panel, allowing it to finally charge its battery.

The fate of the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) lander has hung in the balance ever since it touched down at Mare Nectaris, south of the Theophilus crater, on January 19, 2024. It should have been cause for celebration, making Japan the fifth nation to land on the Moon. It was also the demonstration of a new precision landing technique that used surface landmarks for navigation.

Everything seemed to go to plan, even the deployment of two mini rovers right before landing. Unfortunately, possibly due to a malfunctioning engine combined with the Moon’s low gravity, SLIM bounced on touchdown and came to rest on its nose. In this position, the solar panel used to charge the lander’s battery was facing west, preventing it from receiving sunlight.

This left the lander with only three hours of battery charge, so Mission Control placed the spacecraft into sleep mode and hoped that the Sun would eventually shine on the panel. Now that the battery is properly charging, SLIM has returned to full operational mode and is returning data and images, including the first pictures from the Multi-Band Camera (MBC) since the landing.

How long SLIM will operate depends on how long its solar panel can maintain power. However, once the Sun sets on the landing area, the intense cold and darkness of the lunar night will very likely damage the lander’s electronics beyond recovery.

Source: JAXA

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