Japanese lunar exploration comes to life again

The Japanese Moon Landing Spacecraft “SLIM” is operational after several days of power outage. Solar panels now openly produce electricity, Japanese aerospace company JAXA announced on Monday. “SLIM” (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) landed on the lunar surface on January 20 Japan time. However, the device's solar panels, which were only 2.4 meters high, were not powered after landing.

They were facing west and therefore away from the sun. The probe was initially run on battery power before being switched off. “Communication with SLIM was successfully established last night and operations have resumed!” Jaxa said on the X (formerly Twitter) site. The probe is now also exploring the lunar surface, and has successfully sent images of boulders known as the “Toy Poodle” back to Earth.

Despite their awkward orientation, Jaksa hypothesizes that solar panels can generate electricity once sunlight hits them from the moon's west side.

After the former Soviet Union, the United States, China and India, Japan is the fifth country to achieve a soft landing on an Earth satellite. “SLIM” launched to the Moon on an H2A carrier rocket from the Japanese Tanekashima spacecraft in September. Despite initial problems with power supply, Jaxa was satisfied with the project. An unprecedented precision of less than ten meters was achieved when landing on the moon. “SLIM” was said to have landed only three or four meters from its target.

“Slim” made a planned landing near Shioli Crater in a low area called “Nectar Sea”. Japan's space agency hopes that the successful precision landing of “SLIM” will mark the transition from the era of “Land we can” to the era of “Land we want”.

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The data obtained will be used in the planning of future lunar missions, for example as part of the US-led “Artemis” project. NASA wants to bring people to the moon again after 50 years – however, the lunar landing mission “Artemis 3” was recently postponed to September 2026.

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