Alive and Kicking: Japan Gears Up for Potential Recovery of SLIM Moon Lander

Image credit: JAXA

Japan remains optimistic as preparations are underway for the potential recovery of the SLIM moon lander, signaling hope for the mission’s revival.

Japan’s historic moon lander, SLIM (“Smart Lander for Investigating Moon”), may have a chance at recovery despite facing power generation issues. The spacecraft successfully touched down on the lunar surface on January 19, marking Japan’s entry into the lunar exploration community as the fifth nation to achieve a moon landing.

Following the landing, SLIM encountered complications as its solar panels failed to generate electricity on the lunar surface, casting doubt on the lander’s future. However, a recent update from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) brings some optimism. While SLIM intentionally powered down when its battery reached 12% capacity to prevent over-discharge, the lander has not been declared dead.

Telemetry data indicates that SLIM’s solar cells are facing west, and the team is hopeful that if sunlight shines on the lunar surface from the west, power generation may resume. The mission team is actively preparing for recovery, emphasizing that SLIM can operate solely on solar cell power.

Despite the unexpected challenges, SLIM successfully transmitted technical data and imagery collected during its descent and landing. Further updates on SLIM’s status and a comprehensive overview of data analyses are expected at the end of the week.

Launched in September 2023, SLIM aimed to land within 330 feet (100 meters) of a designated spot on the moon’s Shioli Crater. The lander carried two mini-rovers, LEV-1 and LEV-2, both of which deployed successfully. LEV-1 was confirmed to be operating on the lunar surface.

Japan joins the ranks of nations that have achieved a soft landing on the moon, including the Soviet Union, the United States, China, and India. SLIM’s mission, while facing challenges, contributes valuable insights to lunar exploration technology.

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