TechJapanese 'lunar sniper' SLIM re-establishes contact with Earth

Japanese 'lunar sniper' SLIM re‑establishes contact with Earth

SLIM Lander
SLIM Lander
Images source: © JAXA
4:44 AM EST, February 27, 2024

The SLIM lander completed a historic achievement earlier this year by successfully and accurately landing on the lunar surface, a first in the history of space exploration. However, the vehicle subsequently lost contact with Earth. On Monday, JAXA informed the public that communication had been reestablished. The mission team considered this event a "miracle" due to the fact that the lander was not built to survive a lunar night, when temperatures can plummet down to -338 degrees Fahrenheit.

"A command was sent to SLIM last night, and a response was received, confirming that SLIM survived the night on the lunar surface while maintaining communication capabilities!" - JAXA proudly announced in a post on Platform X.

The Japanese celebrate as SLIM resumes communication

Prior to the mission, JAXA firmly stressed that SLIM was not engineered to withstand the severe conditions of a two-week lunar night. The lander, colloquially known as the "lunar sniper" due to the sophisticated precision landing technology it utilizes, touched down on the Moon on Saturday, January 20. Though the primary goal of achieving a precise landing was met, an issue arose as the vehicle's solar cells were incorrectly angled and unable to generate power. This predicament jeopardized the possibility of accomplishing further mission objectives.

Fortuitously, eight days later, SLIM was able to regain power as a shift in the direction of solar rays occurred. In the days that followed, the lander was able to collect geological data from lunar rocks. By the end of January, it had entered a state of hibernation to endure the lunar night.

In a subsequent post on Platform X, the team announced on Monday that communication with SLIM had been interrupted "after a brief period, as it was still lunar noon and the temperature of the communication equipment had significantly risen".

"During the night operation, we were able to take pictures with SLIM's navigation camera!" - the agency stated in another post, including a photo of the Moon's surface.

As the temperature on the Moon begins to drop, JAXA intends to assess the functionality of the lander, this includes a camera specifically designed for the observation of lunar surface minerals. This camera plays a crucial role in the search for clues regarding the Moon's origin by comparing the mineral composition of lunar rocks with those found on Earth.

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