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Updated January 29th, 2024 at 17:42 IST

Japan's Moon Lander Is Back Online As Sunlight Conditions Improve At Landing Site

JAXA said that communications with the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) has been re-established and operations to study the lunar surface have begun.

Harsh Vardhan
SLIM
SLIM photographed on the Moon. | Image:JAXA
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Japan's Moon lander is back online. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said on January 29 that communications with the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) has been re-established and operations to study the lunar surface have begun.

"Communication with SLIM was successfully established last night, and operations resumed! Science observations were immediately started with the MBC, and we obtained first light for the 10-band observation," JAXA said in a statement.

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Communication with SLIM was successfully established last night, and operations resumed! Science observations were immediately started with the MBC, and we obtained first light for the 10-band observation. This figure shows the “toy poodle” observed in the multi-band observation. pic.twitter.com/WYD4NlYDaG

— 小型月着陸実証機SLIM (@SLIM_JAXA) January 29, 2024

As part of the operations, the lander is studying the rocks (shown in the image below) lying around the landing site and the first target is a rock named ‘Toy Poodle.’

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Rocks named by JAXA near SLIM's landing site. Image: JAXA

 

"The team is sorting out rocks of interest, assigning a nickname to each of them, with intent of communicating their relative sizes smoothly by the names," the space agency further said.

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The mission team was waiting for sunlight to fall on SLIM's solar cells after it got disoriented during landing on January 19. The agency even released a picture, taken by one of SLIM's two tiny rovers, of the Lander lying nosedown on the lunar regolith.

SLIM on the lunar surface. Image: JAXA

 

Since the cells were not receiving any sunlight, SLIM had no electricity and thus the lunar experiments had not begun. Japan has lost a considerable amount of time which could have been used for exploration right after landing. Similar to Chandrayaan-3's Vikram lander and Pragyan rover, the $120 million SLIM mission could end once lunar night begins at the landing site because the payloads are not designed to temperatures as low as -130° Celsius. 

SLIM was launched in September 2023 with the objective of making a precision landing within a 100-meter-area on the rim of the Shioli crater on the near side of the Moon. JAXA said that the precision landing objective was complete, although it was about 55 meters away from the target point. The reason for this was loss of thrust in one of its two engines which made SLIM drift away from its target point. 

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Published January 29th, 2024 at 17:41 IST

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