The Japanese lunar lander surprises the team by waking up from a cold lunar night

Japan’s lunar lander has re-established contact with its mission controllers on Earth, confirming that it has successfully survived two weeks of frigid lunar nights.

SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) reached the moon last month – a first for Japan as it became the fifth country to achieve a soft landing on the lunar surface. But it was soon discovered that SLIM had rolled over during landing, leaving the team at JAXA – Japan’s NASA – wondering whether the mission could continue.

After a brief outage immediately after landing, JAXA was able to make brief contact with SLIM, during which the lander sent a number of images back to Earth. But as sunlight moved away from the lander’s solar panels, it lost power again as it entered the long lunar night.

The team wasn’t sure if SLIM would survive this period of intense cold, but on Monday they were overjoyed to learn that the lander had been successful.

“Last night, a command was sent to SLIM and a response was received, confirming that the spacecraft had successfully passed through the lunar night and maintained communications capabilities,” JAXA said in a post on social media.

he added: “Communication with SLIM was lost after a while, because it was still midday on the moon and the temperature of the communication equipment was very high. Preparations are underway to resume operations when the instrument temperature cools sufficiently.”

This means the mission may be able to achieve more of its goals, including conducting “high-resolution spectroscopic observations” once conditions improve.

But the main goal of the mission has been achieved, namely demonstrating new technology for precision landing. Although the landing did not go as planned, SLIM’s landing accuracy can be considered to be within 32.8 feet (10 meters), indicating much greater accuracy than offered by the technology used by previous lunar missions, which targeted landing zones in several places. miles.

SLIM’s soft landing on the moon puts Japan in an elite group that includes the United States, Russia, China and India. In recent days, the US also set a new record when the Texas-based Intuitive Machines mission became the first commercial attempt to land on the lunar surface, although like SLIM, the landing was imperfect and the mission is expected to end early. than planned.

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