Call home: “Moon sniper” survived the second night on the Moon

The Japanese aerospace agency JAXA again managed to contact the SLIM spacecraft, also known by the nickname “moon sniper”. Thus, it has already survived the second night on the moon.

SLIM landed on the moon on January 19, 2024, making Japan the fifth country in history to make this achievement. Unfortunately, it was not without problems. Due to an engine failure during landing, SLIM stuck his “head” into the regolith. As a result, the solar panels of the spacecraft were in the shade, which seriously complicated the further work of the mission. Initially, SLIM stayed in touch with Earth for only a couple of hours, after which the engineers had to wait ten days for the Sun to illuminate its solar panels again. Two days later, the Sun went below the horizon. Since SLIM did not have radioisotope heaters and its electronics were not designed for the temperatures of cold lunar nights, the chances that it would be able to get back in touch seemed small.

However, SLIM managed to survive the first night. At the end of February, it got in touch and started transmitting data, and then fell asleep again. On March 26, the sun shone on its panels again, so JAXA tried to establish contact with the spacecraft again.

The position of the SLIM spacecraft after landing. The picture was taken by the LEV-2 rover. Source: JAXA

These attempts were successful. On March 27, SLIM responded to commands from Earth and transmitted an image of the lunar surface taken by its navigation camera. However, the communication session did not last long. This is due to the fact that the Sun rose high above the horizon and strongly heated SLIM. Because of this, specialists have to limit the operating time of the spacecraft’s electronics in order to avoid its failure.

In any case, a long stay on the Moon is already beginning to affect the technical condition of SLIM. According to JAXA, some temperature sensors and unused battery cells are already starting to malfunction. But most of the spacecraft’s systems are still operational. This gives hope that SLIM will continue to work and will be able to survive its next sleepover.

Earlier we talked about the fate of the Odysseus spacecraft. Unlike SLIM, it did not manage to survive its first sleepover on the moon.

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