JAXA will try to talk to the “moon sniper” again

The Japanese Aerospace Agency (JAXA) has begun attempts to reconnect with the SLIM spacecraft. It recently completed its second sleepover on the moon.

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

SLIM’s main task was to demonstrate precision moon landing technology. Therefore, it received the unofficial nickname “moon sniper”. On January 19, 2024, the probe landed on the slope of Shioli crater, demonstrating the claimed accuracy. However, not everything went smoothly. At the final stage of landing, one of the engines of the spacecraft failed. This led to the fact that SLIM landed in an abnormal mode, burying its “head” in the regolith. As a result, the solar panels of the spacecraft were in the shade.

Because of this, immediately after landing, SLIM was able to keep in touch with the Earth for only a few hours. Ten days later, when the Sun changed its position in the lunar sky and illuminated its panels, the probe “woke up” again and contacted the Earth. 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 moonlit nights, the chances that it would be able to get back in touch seemed small.

The last photo transmitted by the SLIM spacecraft from the Moon before the overnight stay. Source: JAXA

However, SLIM managed to survive the overnight stay. At the end of February, it got in touch and started transmitting data, and then fell asleep again. On March 26, the sun illuminated its panels again, so JAXA began trying to establish contact with the spacecraft again.

At the moment, it is difficult to say whether the “moon sniper” will be able to wake up a second time or whether we will no longer hear it. But in any case, SLIM has already proved to be more resilient than the Odysseus spacecraft built by Intuitive Machines. It did not manage to survive its first night on the moon.

According to https://phys.org

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