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Updated January 25th, 2024 at 16:29 IST

Japan Says Precise Landing of SLIM Achieved on Moon, Shares 1st Picture of Ailing Lander

Japan's space agency JAXA said the first objective of SLIM, which was a pinpoint landing on the Moon has been more or less achieved.

SLIM
SLIM photographed on the Moon. | Image:JAXA
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The Japanese space agency has shared a picture of its Moon lander, confirming the touchdown as claimed on January 19. The image, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), was taken by the Lunar Exploration Vehicle-2 or LEV-2 which is one of the two tiny rovers sent to the Moon.

"This image was transferred to the ground via LEV-1, and it was confirmed that the communication function between LEV-1 and LEV-2 was operating normally," an official statement said.

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SLIM on the Moon. Image: JAXA

The Smart Lander For Investigating Moon (SLIM) touched down on the Moon on January 19 but the result wasn't exactly what JAXA officials expected. Soon after the Moon landing, officials revealed that the solar cells of SLIM were not generating electricity because the lander is facing away from the Sun.

This indeed is a setback as the lander is still deprived of electricity, but Japan is now only the 5th nation to successfully soft lander a spacecraft on the Moon. It was launched in September, 2023 and it entered the lunar orbit on December 25 for a touchdown on January 19. The lander is currently lying near the Shioli crater on the near side of the Moon. 

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How is the lander doing now?

On January 23, JAXA said that the lander's battery was disconnected with 12% of power remaining. It also said that SLIM is facing west, opposite the direction of sunlight which makes carrying out experiments on the Moon impossible. The officials are now waiting for a change in the solar angle which would shed some sunlight on the cells and revive the lander.

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The agency, however, shared a good news on January 25. It claimed that the first objective of SLIM, which was a pinpoint landing on the Moon has been more or less achieved. Meant to land in a 100 meter area, SLIM touched down about 55 meters from the target point.

"Pinpoint landing accuracy is about 10m or less, and the difference between the target point and the actual point of touchdown is about 55m," JAXA said. "If there was no main engine abnormality around 50m altitude, the landing accuracy might have been around 3-4m."

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The agency also announced the success with the LEV-2 or SORA-Q built by Japanese toy company Takara Tomy in collaboration with JAXA, Sony and Doshisha University.

"LEV-2 (SORA-Q) on the moon successfully completed the mission of automatically driving to image the SLIM spacecraft and understand its landing status, and sent images to the ground via LEV-1," JAXA said.

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As of now, efforts are on to revive the lander as soon as the solar cells receive the sunlight and electricity is generated. Officials said that SLIM can only operate on electricity generated by the solar cells. 
 

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Published January 25th, 2024 at 16:29 IST

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