“A photo of Japan’s robotic moon lander shows that though the spacecraft did make the quarter-million-mile journey to the lunar surface, it landed upside down…” reports Mashable.
Because of the lander’s now-apparent inverted position, its solar panels weren’t oriented correctly to generate power, according to the space agency. The team elected to conserve power by shutting down the spacecraft about 2.5 hours after landing.
What’s perhaps as surprising as the photo of the lander is how it was taken. Two small rovers separated from the crewless mothership just prior to touchdown. It was one of these baseball-sized robots that was able to snap the image of the spacecraft with its head in the moondust. The rover, built with the help of Japanese toy maker Takara Tomy, is a sphere that splits in half to expose a pair of cameras that point front and back. The two hemispheres also become the rover wheels. “The company is perhaps most famous for originally creating the Transformers, the alien robots that can disguise themselves as machines,” said Elizabeth Tasker, who provided commentary on the moon landing in English on Jan. 20.
The space agency still isn’t entirely sure what went wrong. At about 55 yards above the ground, the spacecraft performed an obstacle avoidance maneuver, part of the pinpoint-landing demonstration. Just prior to this step, one of the two main engines stopped thrusting, throwing the lander’s orientation off. JAXA is continuing to investigate what caused the engine problem… Despite the fact that the spacecraft is now sleeping, the SLIM team hasn’t lost hope for a recovery. With solar panels facing west, the lander still has a chance of catching some rays and generating power. If the angle of sunlight changes, SLIM could still be awakened, mission officials said.
That would have to happen soon, though. Night will fall on the moon on Feb. 1, bringing about freezing temperatures. The spacecraft was not built to withstand those conditions.
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft has now passed over the landing site at an altitude of about 50 miles (80 km) — and snapped their own photograph which they say shows “the slight change in reflectance around the lander due to engine exhaust sweeping the surface.”