Japanese SLIM probe could capsize during moon landing

The SLIM probe, owned by the Japanese aerospace agency JAXA, could capsize during a moon landing. The spacecraft is in touch with Earth, but at the moment, it is unknown whether it will be able to collect any scientific data.

SLIM spacecraft (concept). Source: JAXA

SLIM landed on the moon on January 19th (it was already January 20th in Japan). The spacecraft gradually decreased its altitude and eventually touched the lunar surface. However, judging by the telemetry data, at that moment there was a violation in its orientation. In addition, the battery level continued to drop, which indicated that the probe panels were not illuminated by the Sun. At the same time, various radio observatories and amateur radio operators recorded a steady signal from the Moon, indicating that SLIM survived the meeting with the surface and did not crash. In addition, before landing, the probe managed to drop one of the micro-rovers. It is also in touch with the Earth.

Later, JAXA confirmed that the probe’s solar panels were not generating energy, which may indicate that it had indeed flipped over. At the same time, JAXA does not exclude other scenarios, such as a breakdown or terrain features at the landing site.

Currently, it is unclear whether SLIM will be able to recharge its batteries and transmit some scientific data to Earth. It is also unknown what exactly led to the flip-over (if it really happened) — premature engine shutdown, a fault in choosing a landing site, a glitch in the landing software or something else. 

Earlier, we talked about the failure of another lunar probe, Peregrine, which burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere

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