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Japan's moon lander wakes up after long, cold lunar night

February 26, 2024

Japan's space agency has said that its SLIM moon lander miraculously revived after a change in sun's angle that allowed recharging of its battery.

SLIM on the surface of moon
Last month, SLIM made a historic "pinpoint" touchdown on the moonImage: Uncredited/JAXA/Takara Tomy/Sony Group Corporation/Doshisha University/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Japan's moon lander managed to function once more after surviving a two-week-long icy lunar night, the country's space agency said Monday.

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) had a historic "pinpoint" touchdown on the moon last month.

What happened to Japan's moon lander?

Post touchdown, it tipped and went to sleep as its solar panels' orientation did not allow the recharging of its batteries.

However, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), as the sun's angle shifted in a way that allowed SLIM to get recharged, it woke up after two weeks and re-established communication with the Earth.

Japan releases images of 'pinpoint' moon landing

"SLIM has successfully survived the night on the lunar surface while maintaining its communication capabilities!" reported the organization through the SLIM project profile on the X social network.

The moon lander is "not designed for the harsh lunar nights", JAXA said. Temperatures around the landing site can fall as low as minus 133 degrees Celsius (minus 208 Fahrenheit) during the lunar night.

Significant achievement for Japan

Launched in 2023, SLIM's main challenge was to make a 'pinpoint' or precision/localized landing. The touchdown was supposed to be within a radius of 100 meters (about 180 feet) around the Shioli crater, close to the lunar equator — an unprecedented precision until now.

SLIM had landed about 55 meters off the target but was still within its target region.

After landing, SLIM had made observations of about ten rocks.

The team behind the mission believes that SLIM's mission will help improve navigation technologies.

The mission is monumental for Japan's space program after the country had a series of failed attempts.

With SLIM's successful touchdown and its subsequent investigation, Japan became the fifth country to launch a probe on the moon.

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mfi/rc (EFE, Reuters, AFP)