SLIM lunar landing successful, but probe unable to generate power: JAXA

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The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has confirmed that its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) successfully landed on the lunar surface, but is unable to generate power. With the “precision landing”, Japan on Friday became the fifth country to successfully land on the Moon, after Russia, the US, China and India.

The 2.7 metres SLIM touched down on the lunar surface at about 10:20 a.m. EST (8.50 p.m. IST). It began its journey to the Moon on September 6 along with XRISM, a powerful X-ray space telescope. JAXA said that SLIM, also known as “Moon Sniper” in Japanese, achieved a pinpoint landing within 100 metres of the target, as planned.

SLIM landed on the slope of Shioli Crater, a relatively fresh, 300-metre-wide impact feature within Mare Nectaris, at 13 degrees south latitude and 25 degrees east longitude on the near side of the moon. “We believe that the soft-landing itself was successful…if the descent from 10kms height didn’t happen well, it would’ve crashed…but, it is still sending us data properly.

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Soft-landing was successful,” a JAXA official said during a post-landing press conference. While mission officials could establish communication with the lander, the probe is facing power problems, JAXA said in a statement. “Communication with spacecraft has been established after the landing. However, the solar cells are currently not generating power,” it said.

JAXA officials stated that they don’t know the reason why the solar cells aren’t working. It could not have suffered any damage during the touchdown, because SLIM’s other hardware appears to be fine and functional. But it is likely that the lander isn’t facing the Sun as expected, they said.

JAXA said “priority is given to data acquisition from the SLIM on the moon. Detailed analysis of the acquired data will be conducted in the future”. “Congratulations @JAXA_en on being the historic 5th country to land successfully on the Moon! We value our partnership in the cosmos and continued collaboration with @NASAArtemis,” Bell Nelson, NASA administrator said in a post on X .

SLIM is a cargo research mission, carrying a variety of scientific payloads, including an analysis camera and a pair of lunar rovers. “I would like to congratulate @JAXA_en on the successful landing of the small-scale lunar lander SLIM! I am thrilled with the achievement of Japan’s 1st #Moon landing, and I believe that this accomplishment serves as a source of inspiration and pride for Japanese people,” Takeshi Hakamada, Founder & CEO of Japanese startup ispace wrote on X.

ispace’s Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander crashed in April 2023 as it attempted to descend to the lunar surface. Hakamada said ispace “will once again aim for the Moon” next year.