Sunday, February 25, 2024

Japan’s SLIM landed on Moon, but not all went well

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirms that the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) successfully landed on the Moon’s surface on January 20, 2024. At 10:20 am EST, the SLIM lander put itself gently on the lunar surface near an equatorial crater, but the solar panels failed to engage, leaving the craft with only a few hours of battery power.

This feat made Japan the fifth country to make a soft landing on Earth’s natural satellite, following the United States, Soviet Union, China, and India. However, engineers are now battling to save the mission.

The SLIM mission was designed to demonstrate a new landing technique that uses craters as landmarks to guide the probe to a precise location. The SLIM mission also followed the recent fiery end of America’s Peregrine 1 lunar landing mission.

The new lander, SLIM, is designed to land with an accuracy of 100 m (330 ft), which is a significant improvement compared to previous moon landings that required large landing areas covering many square miles. The Apollo 11 mission needed a landing ellipse 20 km (12 miles) long in comparison. The new lander has been nicknamed “Moon Sniper” due to its accuracy and efficiency.

JAXA announced that the landing attempt started at 10:00 am EST, and the lander touched down 20 minutes later. However, According to JAXA, the landing was classified as a “minimum success” due to the bounce on touchdown and the failure of the solar panels to come online. As a result, SLIM is currently running on battery power, and it may not survive for long if the problem is not fixed.