Japan’s Moon lander has come back to life, the space agency said Monday, enabling the craft to proceed with its mission of investigating the lunar surface despite its rocky start.
The surprise announcement was a boost to Japan’s space programme, nine days after the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) touched down at a wonky angle that left its solar panels facing the wrong way.
“Last evening we succeeded in establishing communication with SLIM, and resumed operations!” JAXA said on social media platform X, posting a grainy image of a lunar rock known as a “toy poodle”.
“We immediately started scientific observations with MBC, and have successfully obtained first light for 10-band observation,” it said, referring to the lander’s multiband spectroscopic camera.
SLIM’s January 20 touchdown made Japan only the fifth nation to achieve a “soft landing” on the Moon after the United States, the Soviet Union, China and India.
But on its descent, dubbed the “20 minutes of terror”, the craft suffered engine problems and ended up at a skewed angle, images released by JAXA showed.
This meant the solar panels were facing west instead of up, and it was uncertain if they would still get enough sunlight to function.
Last week JAXA said it had switched the elevator-sized SLIM off with 12 per cent power remaining, hoping that the craft would wake up this week.
A JAXA spokesman told the media on Monday that the SLIM operation resumed “presumably because power generation resumed in its solar battery as it received sunlight”.
“We will prioritise what we can do now — observing and collecting information — rather than adjusting SLIM’s position since adjusting the position could lead to a worse situation,” he said.
“The daytime (where SLIM is on the Moon) will last until around the end of January and it will be at night from around February,” he said.