Resurrection on the Moon: The Japanese SLIM probe is in touch again

The Japanese aerospace agency JAXA reported that the SLIM probe was back in touch. This happened 10 days after its problematic moon landing.

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

SLIM landed on January 19th. Unfortunately, its landing did not go as planned. The fact is that at the final stage of descent, when the probe hovered at an altitude of 50 meters, one of its engines 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, SLIM was in touch with Earth for only 2.5 hours. Nevertheless, it managed to transfer the collected data. Microrovers were dropped by the spacecraft before landing and also got in touch with the MCC. One of them managed to take a picture of SLIM. Later, the Japanese probe also photographed the MRO spacecraft from lunar orbit.

Despite all its problems, SLIM managed to land 55 meters from a given point on the slope of Shioli crater, completing the main task of the mission — demonstrating the possibility of an accurate landing on the Moon. In addition, after studying the position of the probe, experts came to the conclusion that SLIM can still “wake up” when the Sun changes its position in the lunar sky and illuminates its solar panels.

In the end, that’s exactly what happened. On January 29, SLIM reconnected with Earth and continued to make observations, in particular by sending an image of a rock formation located next to it. There are still two days left for it. On January 31, the Sun will set below the horizon, after which the probe will be silent forever, since its electronics are not designed for the temperatures of cold lunar nights. 

In any case, now JAXA can definitely be congratulated on the fact that Japan has become the fifth country to successfully land on the Moon. Even if it didn’t go perfectly.

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