29 Jan 2024, 09:08
Update : 29 Jan 2024, 11:44

Japan's Moon lander comes back to life 

TOKYO, Jan 29, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Japan's Moon lander has come back to life, 
the space agency said Monday, enabling the craft to proceed with its mission 
of investigating the lunar surface despite its rocky start.

The surprise announcement was a boost to Japan's space programme, nine days 
after the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) touched down at a wonky 
angle that left its solar panels facing the wrong way.

"Last evening we succeeded in establishing communication with SLIM, and 
resumed operations!" JAXA said on social media platform X, posting a grainy 
image of a lunar rock known as "toy poodle".

"We immediately started scientific observations with MBC, and have 
successfully obtained first light for 10-band observation," it said, 
referring to the lander's multiband spectroscopic camera.

- Terrifying minutes -

SLIM's January 20 touchdown made Japan only the fifth nation to achieve a 
"soft landing" on the Moon after the United States, the Soviet Union, China 
and India.

But on its descent, dubbed the "20 minutes of terror", the craft suffered 
engine problems and ended up at a skewed angle, images released by JAXA 

This meant the solar panels were facing west instead of up, and it was 
uncertain if they would still get enough sunlight to function.

Last week JAXA said it had switched the elevator-sized SLIM off with 12 
percent power remaining, hoping that the craft would wake up this week.

A JAXA spokesman told AFP on Monday that the SLIM operation resumed 
"presumably because power generation resumed in its solar battery as it 
received sunlight".

"We will prioritise what we can do now -- observing and collecting 
information -- rather than adjusting SLIM's position since adjusting the 
position could lead to a worse situation," he said.

"The daytime (where SLIM is on the Moon) will last until around the end of 
January and it will be at night from around February," he said.

- Pinpoint -

Helping to repair its reputation after a number of recent mishaps, JAXA said 
last week that SLIM had landed 55 metres (yards) from its target.

This meant that the "Moon Sniper" lived up to its nickname and landed within 
the 100-metre landing zone, much more precise than the usual range of several 
kilometres (miles).

Before powering the craft off, mission control was able to download technical 
and image data from SLIM's descent and of the lunar crater where it landed.

Assuming it has enough juice, SLIM can now tackle its main mission of 
investigating an exposed area of the Moon's mantle, the inner layer usually 
deep beneath its crust.

Two probes also detached successfully, JAXA said -- one with a transmitter 
and another designed to trundle around the lunar surface beaming images to 

- Transformers -

This shape-shifting mini-rover, slightly bigger than a tennis ball, was co-
developed by the firm behind the Transformer toys.

Russia, China and other countries from South Korea to the United Arab 
Emirates are also trying their luck to reach the Moon.

US firm Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander began leaking fuel after takeoff 
this month, dooming its mission. It likely burned up in the Earth's 
atmosphere on its return.

NASA has also postponed plans for crewed lunar missions under its Artemis 

Two previous Japanese lunar missions -- one public and one private -- have 

In 2022, the country unsuccessfully sent a lunar probe named Omotenashi as 
part of the United States' Artemis 1 mission.

In April, Japanese startup ispace tried in vain to become the first private 
company to land on the Moon, losing communication with its craft after what 
it described as a "hard landing".


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