In a surprising turn of events, the ‘bittwersweet’ triumph by the Japanese Space Agency JAXA has taken a turn for the better, as the SLIM spacecraft has regained power.
The module performed a historical and very precise lunar landing a a little over a week ago, but ran out of electricity because it ‘ended up upside down in the moon surface’, with solar panels facing the wrong direction.
But on late Sunday (28), JAXA finally re-established communication with its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM).
The spacecraft touchdown made Japan the fifth country to put a spacecraft on the moon, after the Soviet Union, the US, China and India.
The probe was able to generate power again thanks to a change in the sunlight’s direction, JAXA said.
“!SLIM resumed its operations to analyze the composition of olivine rocks on the lunar surface with its multi-band spectral camera, in search of clues about the origin of the moon, the agency added.
SLIM touched down on the moon within 55 m (180 ft) of its target in a crater near the lunar equator on Jan. 20. JAXA said it proved an advancement in what it called vision-based ‘pinpoint’ landing – a technology that could be a powerful tool for future exploration of hilly moon poles seen as a possible source of fuel, water and oxygen.
SLIM lost the thrust of one of its two main engines shortly before the touchdown for unknown reasons and ended up drifting a few dozen meters away from the target. The lander safely stopped on a gentle slope but appeared toppled with an engine facing upward in a picture taken by a baseball-sized wheeled rover it deployed.”
SLIM’s solar panels ended up facing westward and could not immediately generate power. JAXA turned off the dying battery 2 hours and 37 minutes after the touchdown, as soon as it completed the transmission of the lander’s data to the earth.
JAXA has said that the lander was not designed to survive a lunar night, which begins on Thursday.
The Guardian reported:
“The probe, nicknamed the ‘moon sniper’, had tumbled down a crater slope during its landing on 20 January, leaving its solar batteries facing in the wrong direction and unable to generate electricity.
[…] ‘Last evening we succeeded in establishing communication with Slim, and resumed operations’, Jaxa said on Monday. ‘We immediately started scientific observations with MBC [multi-band camera], and have successfully obtained first light for 10-band observation’, it said, referring to the lander’s spectroscopic camera.”
The lander achieved the historical goal of landing within 100 meters of its target, touching down only 55 meters away, more precisely than the usual landing zone range that experts put at several kilometers.
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