Japan’s SLIM moon probe unexpectedly survives lunar night

Japan's SLIM moon probe unexpectedly survives lunar nightFILE PHOTO: The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), is seen in this handout image taken by LEV-2 on the moon, released on January 25, 2024. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), TAKARA TOMY, Sony Group, Doshisha University /via REUTERS/File Photo

Japan’s space agency reported on Monday that its SLIM moon lander has unexpectedly endured a freezing lunar night and has successfully re-established communication with Earth. This comes over a month after the spacecraft achieved a historic “pinpoint” touchdown on the moon’s surface.

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) made its touchdown on the lunar surface last month, marking Japan as the fifth country to successfully land a probe on the moon. Following suit, U.S.-based Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus also landed last week. This surge in lunar exploration highlights the global interest in lunar resources and potential human habitability.

Upon its landing, SLIM found itself within an impressive 55 meters (180 feet) of its target just south of the moon’s equator. However, it encountered a setback as it tipped over, causing its solar panels to be positioned incorrectly and leading to a depletion of power. Despite this challenge, its solar panels managed to regain electricity over a week later, benefiting from a change in sunlight direction.

Previously, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency had expressed doubts regarding SLIM’s ability to survive a lunar night due to its design limitations. Nonetheless, the unexpected resilience displayed by the lander has provided a new perspective on its capabilities and potential for extended lunar missions.