Farewell greetings from the Moon: SLIM probe sends its last photo

The Japanese Aerospace Agency (JAXA) has published the latest photo obtained by the SLIM probe. It was taken at sunset. 

Last photo transmitted by the SLIM spacecraft from the Moon. Source: JAXA

The picture shows the landing site of SLIM. It is located on the slope of the Shioli crater. The main purpose of the mission was to test precision moon landing technology. Despite the fact that one of SLIM’s engines failed during the lunar landing, the probe managed to land 55 meters from the set point. This turned out to be enough to consider the demonstration a success.

But it was not without a fly in the ointment. Due to problems with the engines, SLIM sat in the wrong position, and because of this, its solar panels were not illuminated by the Sun. And after landing, the probe could work for 2.5 hours because of this. After that, the engineers were forced to turn off the spacecraft when it had almost exhausted the charge of its batteries.

Ten days later, the light from the setting Sun finally hit the photovoltaic panels of SLIM, the spacecraft reconnected with the Earth and continued observations. Unfortunately, it didn’t have much time left. On January 31, the sun finally set over the horizon. The last picture of SLIM was taken shortly before this moment. The photo shows long shadows stretching across the lunar surface.

In mid-February, when the Sun rises over this region again and its light hits the photovoltaic panels of SLIM, JAXA will try to contact it again. But the chances that the probe will survive the overnight stay are not very high. Its electronics are not designed for temperatures of cold lunar nights, reaching -173 °C.

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