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Posted on February 6th, 2024

Out of This World – SLIM Lands on the Moon But Power Is A Problem

Japan has made it to the Moon, but how long will they be able to stay is the big question. Japan’s SLIM spacecraft landed on the mMon’s surface on January 19, 2024. The president of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Yamakawa Hiroshi, announced a successful landing during a press conference. He told the press, “We should be able to access the lunar surface,” and added, “I believe that there is a path opening to that now.”

He didn’t expect to tell the press SLIM’s solar panels weren’t operating the way they were supposed to, and if the problem wasn’t resolved quickly, the mission planned for the Moon landing would be a failure.

Watch the view from SLIM as it lands and its first images of the Moon. (Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)/立命館大学/会津大学)

Everything appeared to be going smoothly, with SLIM reaching various milestones during the descent and the lander communicating with its handlers. All systems were good to go all the way up until touchdown; however, JAXA wasn’t able to get immediate confirmation of SLIM’s status when it landed. An hour went by before the agency gave an update to the press detailing the power problems.

SLIM’s battery only lasts a few hours, which will leave it stranded on the Moon’s surface, where it will remain silent forever. No one knows why the solar cells aren’t working according to JAXA officials. Officials have also said the likelihood of the panels being damaged during the touchdown was very low. SLIM’s hardware appeared to be working correctly. The theory is the lander isn’t oriented toward the Sun the way it needs to be, preventing the panels from working properly.

However, SLIM wasn’t the only visitor to the Moon that day either. An X-ray space telescope called XRISM tagged along for the ride. It deployed itself low into Earth’s orbit shortly after liftoff and has recently sent home its first test images.

Missions to the Moon have been going on for decades, and the great space race is still in process today. This isn’t the first time Japan has been involved in the adventure. They are credited for having their tiny lander included in NASA’s Artemis 1 mission. The race to the Moon is sure to continue, and Japan seems to be headed towards the front lines.

Katie Nelson
Geospatial Ninja
(303) 718-7163

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