Japanese lunar exploration comes to life again

DJapanese lunar probe “SLIM” is operational after several days of power outage. Solar panels now openly produce electricity, Japanese aerospace company JAXA announced on Monday. The “SLIM” (Smart Lander for Lunar Exploration) landed on the lunar surface on January 20, Japan time. However, the device's solar panels, which were only 2.4 meters high, did not provide any electricity after landing because they were facing west and away from the sun. The probe was initially run on battery power before being switched off.

“Communication with SLIM was successfully established last evening and operations have resumed!” JAXA said on the X platform (formerly Twitter). The probe is now also exploring the lunar surface and has successfully sent images of the “Toypoodle” boulders back to Earth. ,” it said. Despite the unfavorable orientation, JAXA thinks the solar panels will be able to generate electricity once sunlight hits them from the moon's west side.

Japan is the fifth country after the former Soviet Union, the United States, China and India to achieve a soft landing on an Earth satellite. “SLIM” launched to the moon on an H2A carrier rocket from the Japanese space station Tanekashima in September. JAXA was satisfied with the project despite initial problems with energy supply. Because the lunar landing achieved an unprecedented accuracy of less than ten meters. “SLIM” may have landed only three or four meters from its target, it was said.

“Slim” landed in a low area called the “Sea of ​​Nectar” near Shioli Crater. However, during landing, one of the engine's thrusters broke loose and fell to the lunar surface. As a result of the thrust change, the probe did not touch down in the correct orientation towards the Sun. Japan's space agency still believes that the successful precision landing of “SLIM” will mark the transition from the “Land we can” era to the “Land we want” era.

The data obtained will be used in the planning of future lunar missions, for example as part of the US-led “Artemis” project. NASA wants to bring people back to the moon after 50 years – although the lunar landing mission “Artemis 3” was recently postponed to September 2026.

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