Japan’s lunar probe regains power nine

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Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) has been resurrected, over a week after the probe ran out of electricity following its troubled lunar touchdown on January 20th, leaving it upside-down and its solar panels pointing in the wrong direction. On Monday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that communication with the SLIM spacecraft had been re-established, and operations to hunt for clues about the Moon’s origins had resumed.

JAXA had predicted that a change in sunlight direction could allow the probe’s battery to be recharged from its awkwardly angled solar panels. It’s unclear how long this power will last — the agency previously said that SLIM was not designed to survive a lunar night, which will next occur on Thursday.

Images of the lunar surface taken by SLIM’s multi-band spectral camera before the spacecraft’s power was initially disabled were released on January 25th. Today, JAXA released another image of the “toy poodle” rock formation photographed by SLIM.

While the mission faced some issues with its landing position after one of the SLIM spacecraft’s main engines failed causing it to tumble over, the successful soft landing makes Japan the fifth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon, alongside the US, China, India, and the former Soviet Union, according to Reuters.

An image of the lander’s awkward touchdown position was photographed by one of the two small “baseball-sized” transforming robots ejected during landing. And despite the topple, SLIM’s mission itself was judged a success by JAXA after landing within an “unprecedented” 180 feet of its target — a showcase of vision-based “pinpoint” landing technology that the space agency hopes could be a valuable tool in advancing Lunar exploration.

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