Japan’s Moon Lander Surprises Scientists by Waking Up After Lunar Night

Japan’s Moon Lander Surprises Scientists by Waking Up After Lunar Night

Japan’s Moon lander, known as the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), has astonished scientists by awakening after the two-week lunar night. The unmanned lander had touched down on the Moon last month at an awkward angle, causing its solar panels to face the wrong way. However, as the Sun’s angle shifted, SLIM came back to life for two days and conducted scientific observations of a crater using a high-spec camera, as reported by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

JAXA was uncertain whether SLIM would reawaken after going to sleep as darkness returned, given that the lander was not designed to withstand the harsh lunar nights. However, after sending a command, SLIM responded to JAXA’s surprise. The agency reported on X (formerly Twitter) that “SLIM succeeded in surviving a night on the Moon’s surface while maintaining its communication function.”

Although communications were terminated shortly after awakening due to the high temperature of the communication equipment during lunar midday, preparations are underway to resume operations once the instrument temperatures have cooled sufficiently. SLIM, also known as the “Moon Sniper” for its precision landing technology, successfully achieved a soft landing within its target landing zone on January 20.

The primary goal of the SLIM mission is to examine a part of the Moon’s mantle – the deep inner layer beneath its crust – which is believed to be accessible. Rocks exposed in this area are crucial for understanding the origins of both the Moon and the Earth. Furthermore, insights gained from this mission could help unravel the mystery of the Moon’s potential water resources, which are essential for future missions to Mars and building bases on the Moon.

The success of the SLIM mission comes as a significant achievement for Japan’s space program, following a series of recent failures. Japan now joins the elite group of nations, including the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and India, to achieve a soft landing on the Moon. The latest news from SLIM coincided with the successful launch of Japan’s new flagship H3 rocket on February 17, marking a long-awaited accomplishment after years of delays and failed attempts.

Several countries, including Russia, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates, are actively pursuing missions to the Moon. The recent landing of the American Odysseus lander near the lunar south pole demonstrates the growing interest in lunar exploration. Despite previous setbacks, Japan’s space agency JAXA continues to make significant strides in space exploration, contributing valuable knowledge to our understanding of the Moon and beyond.

Science

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