Japan Moon lander revives after lunar night


This image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency shows an image taken by a Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2 (LEV-2) of a robotic moon rover called Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or Slim on the moon. - AP

TOKYO: Japan's Moon lander has produced another surprise by waking up after the two-week lunar night, the country's space agency said on Monday (Feb 26).

The unmanned Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (Slim) touched down last month at a wonky angle that left its solar panels facing the wrong way.

As the sun's angle shifted, it came back to life for two days and carried out scientific observations of a crater with a high-spec camera, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) said.

It went to sleep again as darkness returned and, since it was "not designed for the harsh lunar nights", Jaxa had been uncertain whether it would reawaken.

"Yesterday we sent a command, to which Slim responded," Jaxa said on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday.

"Slim succeeded in surviving a night on the Moon's surface while maintaining its communication function!"

It said that communications were "terminated after a short time, as it was still lunar midday and the temperature of the communication equipment was very high."

But it added: "Preparations are being made to resume operations when instrument temperatures have sufficiently cooled."

Slim, dubbed the "Moon Sniper" for its precision landing technology, touched down within its target landing zone on Jan 20.

The feat was a win for Japan's space programme after a string of recent failures, making the nation only the fifth to achieve a "soft landing" on the Moon, after the United States, the Soviet Union, China and India.

But during its descent, the craft suffered engine problems and ended up on its side, meaning the solar panels were facing west instead of up.

The latest news comes after Jaxa toasted a successful blast-off for its new flagship H3 rocket on Feb 17, making it third time lucky after years of delays and two previous failed attempts.

Countries including Russia, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates are also trying their luck to reach the Moon.

The first American spaceship to the Moon since the Apollo era -- the uncrewed Odysseus lander built by a private company and funded by Nasa -- landed near the lunar south pole on Thursday.

But its maker said the US spacecraft is probably lying sideways following its dramatic landing, even as ground controllers work to download data and surface photos from it.

Private Japanese firm ispace also attempted to land on the Moon last year but the probe suffered a "hard landing" and contact was lost. - AFP

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