Japan’s Moon Lander Slim Faces Power Generation Challenges

Japan’s space agency, Jaxa, is optimistic about salvaging the Moon lander Slim, despite facing power generation challenges due to its solar cells pointing west. The spacecraft was turned off shortly after its successful lunar touchdown to conserve power. However, Jaxa believes that if sunlight hits the Moon from the west, there remains a possibility of power generation. Jaxa is currently preparing for restoration in anticipation of improved lighting conditions. Slim’s mission, also known as “Moon Sniper,” marked Japan as the fifth nation to achieve a soft lunar landing. However, concerns arose as power levels dwindled, prompting the decision to put the craft to sleep to avoid hampering potential restart. Before shutdown, mission control obtained valuable data and images of Slim’s descent to the lunar surface. As Jaxa continues to monitor the situation, updates will be provided throughout the week.

Moon missions strive to land during the “lunar day,” when the Sun rises on the eastern horizon, providing approximately two Earth weeks of illumination. Following this period, the Sun sets for two weeks of darkness. Slim’s landing location currently experiences “morning,” and it is suspected that the spacecraft’s solar cells may be facing westward. Consequently, it may need to wait until the “lunar afternoon” to capture enough light for the battery system to recharge. Slim also carried two small rovers, successfully deploying them before touchdown. Equipped with an infrared camera, Slim aims to study the local geology, although the extent of its investigation remains uncertain based on the power levels.

Landing on the Moon has historically proven challenging, with success rates standing at approximately 50% for all attempts. Prior to Slim’s touchdown, the US, the former Soviet Union, China, and India were the only nations that achieved intact lunar landings. A recent private American mission discontinued its landing attempt due to a propulsion fault, while another commercial US mission plans to embark on its lunar landing endeavor in late February. Despite the glitch faced by Japan’s Moon lander Slim, Jaxa remains hopeful for a successful restoration and continuation of its mission to explore the lunar surface.