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Japan’s Moon Lander slim resumes mission after brief hiccup

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Japan's Moon Lander slim resumes mission after brief hiccup

Japan’s Moon Lander slim resumes mission after brief hiccup

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  • The lander’s solar cells are now operational due to a shift in lighting conditions.
  • The lander’s primary objective is to analyze the composition of rocks to seek clues about the moon’s origin.
  • Landing on the Moon has proven statistically challenging, with only about half of all attempts succeeding.
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After a week-long shutdown due to a power supply issue, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has successfully resumed operations of its Moon lander. The agency re-established contact with the lander on Sunday night, indicating the resolution of the glitch. The solar cells are now operational again, thanks to a shift in lighting conditions that allowed the spacecraft to catch sunlight.

The power generation problem arose when the lander touched down on January 20, as its solar cells were initially pointing away from the Sun. The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (Slim) spacecraft, by achieving a soft touchdown on the Moon, marked Japan as the fifth country to accomplish this feat after the United States, the former Soviet Union, China, and India.

The spacecraft ran on battery power for several hours before authorities decided to temporarily shut it down, anticipating a potential electricity recovery when the sunlight angle changed. Jaxa, in a post on X (formerly Twitter), shared a photograph taken by Slim of a nearby rock affectionately nicknamed a “toy poodle.”

The primary objective of the lander is to analyze the composition of rocks, seeking clues about the moon’s origin. Slim successfully landed at the edge of the equatorial crater Shioli, achieving an “unprecedented pinpoint landing” within 55 meters (180 feet) of its target, according to Jaxa.

The landing technology, seen as a potential source of fuel, water, and oxygen in the hilly Moon poles for future exploration, could be utilized following the successful slim mission, as stated by the agency.

The Slim mission followed several unsuccessful attempts by Japan, including one by the start-up iSpace, which witnessed its lunar lander crashing when its onboard computer became confused about its altitude above the Moon.

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Jaxa could not immediately specify the duration Slim will operate on the Moon. The agency had previously mentioned that the lander was not designed to endure a lunar night, which lasts about 14 days when the Moon’s surface is not exposed to the Sun.

Landing on the Moon has proven statistically challenging, with only about half of all attempts succeeding. Before Japan, India was the most recent nation to achieve this milestone, as its Chandrayaan-3 rover touched down near the lunar South Pole in August 2023—an area on the Moon’s surface never before reached by humans.

Recently, a US spacecraft launched by a private operator concluded its lunar mission in flames over the Pacific earlier this month. Additionally, in August of the previous year, Russia’s first lunar spacecraft in decades crashed into the Moon after losing control.

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