Japan’s Moon Lander May Be Saved by Sunlight, Says Jaxa

Tokyo, Japan – Japan’s space agency Jaxa remains hopeful that its Moon lander, Slim, can be salvaged if it receives enough sunlight in the right location. The spacecraft was shut down shortly after its historic lunar touchdown to conserve power. Engineers discovered that its solar cells were facing away from the Sun, making it unable to generate electricity. However, the mission team is optimistic that the situation could improve as lighting conditions change.

“If sunlight hits the Moon from the west in the future, we believe there’s a possibility of power generation, and we’re currently preparing for restoration,” stated Jaxa. The Slim mission, also known as “Moon Sniper” due to its precision-landing technology, marked Japan as the fifth nation to achieve a soft lunar touchdown. However, the initial joy of the successful descent was overshadowed by concerns over power drainage.

To prevent a complete power loss, the decision was made to put Slim into sleep mode. The spacecraft’s battery was intentionally disconnected with 12% power remaining to avoid hindering a future restart. Jaxa confirmed that the shutdown occurred at 02:57 Japan time on Saturday.

Before powering down, mission control successfully gathered crucial data about Slim’s predicament and captured images and details of its descent to the lunar surface. “We’re relieved and beginning to get excited after confirming a lot of data has been obtained,” said Jaxa.

The space agency pledged to provide further updates throughout the week. Moon missions typically aim to land during the “lunar day” to maximize sunlight exposure for approximately two Earth weeks before the region returns to darkness for two weeks. As Slim is currently situated on the slopes of Shioli Crater, which is experiencing “morning” conditions, it may have to wait until the “lunar afternoon” when sunlight reaches the westward-facing solar cells to recharge the battery system.

Slim carried two small rovers that were successfully ejected before touchdown, according to data. Additionally, the lander is equipped with an infrared camera to study the local geology, although the extent of its investigation capabilities relies on the restoration of power levels.

Landing on the Moon has historically proven to be a challenging feat, with only about 50% of attempts ending in success. Prior to Slim’s achievement, only the United States, the former Soviet Union, China, and India had successfully reached the lunar surface. As private American missions face their own challenges, with one recently aborting its landing attempt due to a propulsion fault, the future of lunar exploration remains uncertain.