Japan: Moon lander Slim comes back to life and resumes mission

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Artwork: Jaxa has become the fifth national space agency to land on the Moon
By Kelly Ng
BBC News

Japan’s Moon lander has resumed operations after being shut for a week due to a power supply issue.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said it re-established contact with the lander Sunday night, indicating that the glitch had been fixed.

Its solar cells are working again after a shift in lighting conditions allowed it to catch sunlight, the agency said.

It could not generate power when it landed on 20 January as the solar cells pointed away from the sun.

With the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (Slim) spacecraft, Japan became only the fifth country to achieve a soft touchdown on the moon after the US, the former Soviet Union, China and India.

The spacecraft ran on battery power for several hours before authorities decided to turn it off to allow for a possible recovery of electricity when the angle of sunlight changed.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Jaxa shared a photograph taken by Slim of a nearby rock that it said resembled a toy poodle.

The lander will analyse the composition of rocks in its search for clues about the origin of the moon, Jaxa said.

Slim landed at the edge of an equatorial crater known as Shioli, within 55 m (180 ft) of its target in a crater. Jaxa described it as an “unprecedented pinpoint landing”.

The landing technology could allow future exploration of hilly moon poles seen as a potential sources of fuel, water and oxygen, the agency said.

The Slim mission came after several earlier attempts by Japan failed, including one by the start-up iSpace, which saw its lunar lander crash when its onboard computer became confused about its altitude above the Moon.

Statistically, it has proven very hard to land on the Moon. Only about half of all attempts have succeeded.

Jaxa could not immediately say until when Slim will operate on the moon. It has previously said the lander was not designed to survive a lunar night. A lunar night, which is when the surface of the moon is not exposed to the sun, lasts about 14 days.

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