The journey of the robotic spacecraft Moon Sniper, which made Japan the fifth country to safely land a spacecraft on the moon, has not gone as expected.
The mission, officially known as the Smart Lander for Lunar Exploration (SLIM), arrived at its destination last week, but an “anomaly” during descent caused the vehicle to land with its solar panels facing the wrong direction. However, they were forced to operate within a limited time. According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, battery power.
Moon Sniper’s batteries are currently turned off to maintain the spacecraft’s functionality, so JAXA officials hope the changing angle of the sun will restore power to the spacecraft and allow the mission to resume. We are in wait-and-see mode. Once the lander is activated again, it could accomplish its goal of gathering unprecedented information about the region known as the Sea of Honey.
The spacecraft was located in a crater called Shiori (a Japanese woman’s name pronounced “see-o-lee”), located about 322 kilometers south of the Sea of Silence, near the moon’s equator, where Apollo 11 landed. landed near. Mankind landed on the moon for the first time.
Although it is a small crater, about 880 feet (268 meters) in diameter, it is close to a much larger crater called Theophilus, which is more than 60 miles (97 kilometers) in diameter. This detail makes it especially interesting to explore.
“When I was reading about this about a month ago, I was very excited to learn that they had chosen this location,” said Dr. Gordon Osinski, a professor of planetary geology at Western University in Ontario. said. Geology team for the Artemis III lunar exploration project.
“One of the great things about craters is that they excavate rocks from deep down and essentially give us a window into what lies beneath the surface of a planetary body,” Osinski added. He pointed out that Shiori stands on ground protruded by a large nearby crater, which likely erupted from more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) deep, and urged researchers to dig. He pointed out that this provides an opportunity to study lunar rocks without having to do so.
“I think they chose this particular crater because the mineral olivine was discovered there. And every time I talk about olivine, people’s eyes light up because it’s probably the moon’s “Because we think it comes from the mantle, and we’ve never actually taken samples in the field before,” Osinski said.
1) Sea of Tranquility 2) Apollo 11 landing site 3) Shiori Crater, the target of the SLIM mission, and 4) Chandrayaan 3 lunar landing site (CNN/Getty Images/ISRO/lROC)
In November, NASA released photos of Scioli taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft currently orbiting the moon and mapping the moon to support future missions. . In black and white photographs, craters look like specks of light.
“The Moon doesn’t have an Earth-like atmosphere, so it’s unprotected and constantly bombarded with micrometeorites and radiation that can damage its surface,” said Professor of Planetary Science and Senior Research Director at the Planetary Institute. says Sarah Russell. Natural History Museum Materials Group, London.
The crater is bright in color because it has not yet had time to be dyed black by radiation and micrometeorites. “When a crater occurs, it throws out buried material, which may be more pristine because it hasn’t suffered this kind of damage. We attribute this to space weathering. “It gives us fresh rocks and the possibility of learning more about the moon,” she said.
The opportunity to study these rare rock samples makes the moon a great geological laboratory, Russell added.
“Everything that the moon has experienced, the Earth has also experienced. By looking at the craters, we can also learn something about the history of the Earth itself. “Rocks are formed without the need for any natural elements,” she said. “This is a beautiful experiment in the sky.”
After landing in the crater, the spacecraft took 257 low-resolution images of its surroundings, and the mission team later gave nicknames to some of the rocks in the photos. More images will be taken once the lander regains power.
Another reason for choosing the area near Shiori as the landing site for Japan’s SLIM mission is that its small size is an ideal training ground for the lander’s pinpoint accuracy, with a diameter of just 328 feet for landing. This means that it was possible to target a range of (100 meters). . True to its nickname, Moon’s sniper actually landed just 180 feet (55 meters) short of her target, which JAXA deemed a “significant achievement.”
“They’re showing that they can actually use this technique to land in very small landing circles. This would be a significant step forward for our ability to land on different planets,” said Dr. said Dr. John Pernet Fisher. Professor of astrochemistry at the University of Manchester, UK, said in an interview before his landing.
Traditionally, lunar exploration involves touchdown in an area several kilometers wide. “But we are limited in where we can land because we have to make sure every point in the entire landing area is safe to land on,” he added. “This makes things more difficult if you want to land on more difficult or rugged terrain. So this allows you to land in areas that are a little more varied topographically and therefore We might learn something different about the spacecraft.” The Moon and its Formation. ”
Moon Sniper’s landing site is not far from where Apollo 16 landed in 1972. The Lunar and Planetary Institute said the crew of that old mission collected 731 individual rock and soil samples, reaching a total mass of 95.7 kilograms (210 pounds). This represents a significant portion of the 382 kilograms (842 pounds) that NASA brought back from the Moon throughout the program.
“If you think about it, we’re trying to interpret the geological history of this entire object based on rocks collected from a very small geographical area,” Pernet Fischer said. “So it’s very important for us to collect as much data as possible from very diverse locations geographically. This is still relatively close to part of the Apollo program, but the huge amount of data that we’re going to collect is This is important data.”
sea of lava
The largest lunar feature near Shiori is the Nectar Sea. It’s a 210-mile (339-kilometer) diameter basin and one of the oldest on the moon’s near side, the hemisphere that always faces Earth. The lunar surface can be seen through binoculars or a small telescope and was formed about 3.9 billion years ago when the moon’s surface formed.
At more than 540 miles (875 kilometers) in diameter, the Sea of Honey is much smaller than its equally smooth, flat neighbor, the Sea of Tranquility.
“Quiet was chosen for Apollo 11’s landing not for scientific reasons, but because it was one of the flattest, smoothest parts of the moon and therefore considered the safest place to land. ,” Western University’s Osinsky said.
“This also applies to most robotic missions,” he added. “I’m the principal investigator on Canada’s first lunar rover, and we’re currently looking at landing sites. It may not seem all that interesting.”
The reason scientists call these basins “oceans,” or “maria” in the original Latin, is because ancient astronomers who first looked up at the moon believed that the moon was filled with water because of its dark color. Because I believed that there was.
“After the Apollo mission, we brought back samples and found that it was essentially a giant lava plane,” Osinski said. “It wasn’t like there was a huge volcano with lava flowing out, it was a fissure eruption, so the lava just literally came up through the fissures. We can think of them as oceans of lava.”
Water certainly comes into play when looking at other regions of the moon targeted for future moon landings, including NASA’s first manned Artemis mission, scheduled for as early as 2026. “Antarctic region,” Osinski said. It is interesting and also rich in so-called volatile substances. Think not only of water ice, but also of frozen carbon dioxide and ammonia. ”
If humans can discover and extract a large source of high-quality water ice in the moon’s south pole, the results could revolutionize lunar exploration, Osinsky said.
“If we have water for astronauts to drink, we can extract the oxygen and then break it down to get hydrogen for rocket fuel. Water is so heavy that it is the most difficult to launch from Earth.” It also reduces costs because it is one of the more expensive items,” he said.
“If we want to build a moon base, which everyone wants, we have to find a source of water to use on the moon.”