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Japanese moon lander endures lunar night, continues mission

Japanese moon lander endures lunar night, continues mission

Japanese moon lander endures lunar night, continues mission

Japanese moon lander endures lunar night, continues mission

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  • The craft entered sleep mode after an awkward landing in January, causing its solar panels to face the wrong direction.
  • A change in sunlight direction allowed it to send pictures back, but it shut down again as lunar night fell.
  • Jaxa announced plans to attempt the operation again in mid-February when the Sun would shine again on Slim’s solar cells.
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The Japanese Moon lander has successfully endured the harsh lunar night, equivalent to two Earth weeks without sunlight and freezing temperatures. “Last night, we sent a command to #SLIM and received a response,” stated the national space agency JAXA on X.

The craft entered sleep mode after an awkward landing in January, which resulted in its solar panels facing the wrong direction, rendering them unable to generate power. A change in sunlight direction later enabled it to send pictures back, but it shut down again as lunar night fell.

At the time, Jaxa stated that Slim (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) was not designed for the harsh lunar nights. They announced plans to attempt the operation again in mid-February when the Sun would shine again on Slim’s solar cells.

“The news that SLIM has rebooted itself after the cold lunar night is significant,” said Dr Simeon Barber from the UK’s Open University. “Surviving the lunar night is one of the key technological challenges to overcome if we are to establish long-lived robotic or human missions on the Moon.

Dr. Barber explained that Slim landed near the Moon’s equator, where the lunar surface reaches more than 100C at noon but then plunges to -130C during the lunar night. Jaxa terminated communication with the lander after a short time – it was lunar midday, resulting in very high temperatures for the communications equipment.

Jaxa is making preparations to resume operations when instrument temperatures have sufficiently cooled.

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