Japan cut power to its lunar lander nearly three hours after the historic landing, allowing the lander to recover when the sun hit its solar panels, the space agency said. said on monday.
The unmanned Smart Lander for Lunar Investigation (SLIM) mission, nicknamed the “Moon Sniper” for its precision landing capabilities, made Japan the fifth country to achieve a soft landing on the moon.
However, after touchdown just after midnight on Saturday (15:20 Friday, Japan time), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was unable to confirm that the light spacecraft’s solar cells were generating electricity.
Mission Control was able to receive technical and image data from the lander’s descent and the lunar surface before remotely powering down the lander.
JAXA: “I am relieved and am starting to look forward to seeing that we have obtained a lot of data.” said on monday “According to telemetry data, SLIM’s solar cells are pointing to the west,” the statement added.
“We believe that there is a possibility of generating electricity if sunlight hits the moon from the west in the future, and we are currently preparing for restoration.”
SLIM is one of several new lunar exploration missions launched by governments and private companies 50 years after the first humans landed on the moon.
Crash landings and communications failures have been common, and only four countries have reached the moon: the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and recently India.
JAXA said it disconnected the SLIM’s battery just before 3 a.m. (1 p.m. Japan time on Friday) when it had 12% power remaining “to avoid a situation that would prevent[the lander’s]restart.” .
Removing the probe
The agency is currently conducting a detailed analysis of the data to determine whether the aircraft met its goal of arriving within 100 meters (330 feet) of its planned landing site.
The mission was aimed at craters, where the moon’s mantle (usually a deep inner layer beneath the Earth’s crust) is thought to be exposed on the surface.
JAXA hoped to solve the mystery of water resources that may exist on the moon by analyzing the rocks there. This is the key to one day building a base there as a waypoint on the way to Mars.
The two spacecraft were successfully separated, one carrying a transmitter and the other designed to fly around the moon’s surface and transmit images back to Earth.
Slightly larger than a tennis ball, this shape-shifting mini rover was co-developed by the company that created Transformers toys.
JAXA said Monday it is preparing to make further announcements this week about the mission’s results and the status of the SLIM spacecraft.
Although not everything went according to plan, he said, “We could have achieved a lot and we are happy that the landing was successful.”
To date, Japan’s moon exploration plans have failed twice, one public and one private.
In 2022, the country failed to send the lunar probe Omotenashi as part of the US Artemis 1 mission.
In April, Japanese startup iSpace tried in vain to become the first private company to land on the moon, losing contact with the spacecraft after what the company described as a “hard landing.”
© Agence France-Presse