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Japan’s Moon probe regains power after landing upside-down nine days ago

Japan’s Moon probe regains power after landing upside-down nine days ago


Contact with the SLIM lander was re-established on Sunday, after a change in sunlight direction allowed the solar panels to recharge the probe’s battery.

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A photograph taken of the SLIM probe on the Moon’s surface by the LEV-2 robot.
SLIM landed close to its target, but engine troubles during the descent saw the lander flipped upside-down and unable to properly recharge its solar batteries.
Image: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) has been resurrected, over a week after the probe ran out of electricity following its troubled lunar touchdown on January 20th, leaving it upside-down and its solar panels pointing in the wrong direction. On Monday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that communication with the SLIM spacecraft had been re-established, and operations to hunt for clues about the Moon’s origins had resumed.

JAXA had predicted that a change in sunlight direction could allow the probe’s battery to be recharged from its awkwardly angled solar panels. It’s unclear how long this power will last — the agency previously said that SLIM was not designed to survive a lunar night, which will next occur on Thursday.

Images of the lunar surface taken by SLIM’s multi-band spectral camera before the spacecraft’s power was initially disabled were released on January 25th. Today, JAXA released another image of the “toy poodle” rock formation photographed by SLIM.

While the mission faced some issues with its landing position after one of the SLIM spacecraft’s main engines failed causing it to tumble over, the successful soft landing makes Japan the fifth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon, alongside the US, China, India, and the former Soviet Union, according to Reuters.

An image of the lander’s awkward touchdown position was photographed by LEV-2, a small “baseball-sized” transforming robot that was ejected during landing alongside the LEV-1 “hopping” lunar rover. And despite the topple, SLIM’s mission itself was judged a success by JAXA after landing within an “unprecedented” 180 feet of its target — a showcase of vision-based “pinpoint” landing technology that the space agency hopes could be a valuable tool in advancing Lunar exploration.

Correction, January 29th, 8:55AM ET: Updated to specify that the LEV-2 robot was used to photograph the SLIM lander, and corrected size details regarding the second robot deployed by the probe.