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Updated January 19th, 2024 at 23:44 IST

Japan's SLIM faces existential crisis shortly after Moon landing. JAXA reveals the problem

JAXA's SLIM landed on the Moon at 8:50 pm IST on January 19 and all of its equipment is working except for the most important component.

Harsh Vardhan
SLIM
Artist's impression of SLIM. | Image:JAXA
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Japan's Smart Lander for Investigation Moon (SLIM) made history by acing a soft-landing on the lunar surface but it is facing an existential crisis. According to officials of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), SLIM landed on the Moon at 8:50 pm IST on January 19 and all of its equipment is working except for the solar cells.

During a press conference, the agency officials revealed that SLIM is oriented in a direction where it is not receiving proper sunlight. SLIM autonomously made it to the landing site which is close to the Shioli crater on the near side of the Moon. But it is not known yet if the lander is oriented upside down or in any other position.

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Landing site of SLIM shown in the box. Image: JAXA

 

The Shioli crater. Image: NASA

 

Confirming the landing, JAXA's official statement read, “Communication has been established after landing. However, the solar cells are not generating electricity, so we are currently prioritizing data acquisition from the lunar surface. In the future, we will proceed with detailed analysis of the obtained data.”

JAXA is now relying on a change in the solar angle which could help the solar cells generate power. "The solar angle will change every month, so when the solar direction changes, the light could end up hitting the solar cells," an official said. 

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And for that to happen, the mission team will have to hope that SLIM's instruments will have to survive night-time temperatures of -150° C to -200° C on the Moon until the Sun comes up. 

He also said that, "We don't know the situation yet so we don't want to do something excessive," an official said. 

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JAXA believes that it has succeeded in achieving minimum success criterion adding that it would take about a month to do accurate analysis. 

Officials said that SLIM traced the expected course which confirms a precision landing within a 100 meters landing area (which was one of the mission objectives) but it is unlikely to complete the objectives of studying the Moon's characteristics without electricity.

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SLIM is designed to work for about one lunar day or 14 Earth days similar to Vikram lander and Pragyan rover of ISRO's Chandrayaan 3 mission. The lander weighs about 700 kg and is about the size of a small car. It was also carrying two mini-rovers, one the size of a baseball, for investigations on the surface. 

 

 

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Published January 19th, 2024 at 23:31 IST

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