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Japan reveals what happened to its doomed Moon lander – and its hopes for bringing it back

Sunlight could bring SLIM spacecraft back to life

Andrew Griffin
Monday 22 January 2024 18:20 GMT
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(AP)

Japan has confirmed the problem with its doomed Moon lander – but hopes it still might be able to rescue it.

The country’s “Smart Lander for Investigating Moon”, or SLIM, arrived on the Moon on Friday. It made Japan just the fifth ever country to achieve a soft landing on on the lunar surface.

Immediately, however, space agency JAXA said that it was unable to confirm the status of the lander. It cut its live stream without giving any information.

Later, it announced that SLIM had run into technical problems and was not generating power. The space agency said it believed the landing had been a success but that it would not be able to keep working.

Now the space agency has said that it shut down the lander nearly three hours after it touched down. After it sent back data on its landing, the space agency remotely turned it off.

SLIM appears to have landed at the wrong angle, meaning that its solar panels were not able to catch the Sun, the space agency said.

But they hope that it will be able to come back online, if its solar panels catch the Sun in the right way.

“According to the telemetry data, SLIM’s solar cells are facing west. So if sunlight begins to shine on the lunar surface from the west, there is a possibility of generating power, and we are preparing for recovery,” JAXA said in a statement.

“SLIM can operate with power only from the solar cells.”

De-activating the lander after arrived on the Moon ensured that there was still some power in the batteries, making a restart more likely, it said.

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