Science and Environment

Japan says Moon lander 'resumed operations'

Agence France-Presse
Japan says Moon lander 'resumed operations'
This handout photo released on January 25, 2024 from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and credited to JAXA, Takara Tomy, Sony Group Corporation and Doshisha University shows an image of the lunar surface taken and transmitted by LEV-2 "SORA-Q" the transformable lunar surface robot "SORA-Q" (operation verification model), installed on the private company's lunar module for the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) mission, after landing on the Moon on January 20. Japan's "Moon Sniper" craft landed around 55 metres (180 feet) from its target, the country's space agency said on January 25, 2024 as it released the first images from the mission.
Photo by Handout / various sources / AFP

TOKYO, Japan — Japan's Moon lander has resumed operations, the space agency said on Monday, indicating that power had been restored.

After it landed on January 20, JAXA had said that problems with the craft's solar batteries meant they were not generating power.

"Last evening we succeeded in establishing communication with SLIM, and resumed operations," JAXA said on X, formerly Twitter.

"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.

The agency posted on X an image shot by the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) of "toy poodle", a rock observed near the lander.

The touchdown made Japan only the fifth nation to achieve a soft lunar landing, after the United States, the Soviet Union, China and India.

But around three hours after landing, JAXA decided to switch SLIM off with 12 percent power remaining to allow for a possible resumption when the sun's angle changed.

The lander achieved its goal of landing within 100 metres of its target, touching down 55 metres away.

That is much more precise than the usual landing zone range that experts put at several kilometres.

SLIM was aiming for a crater where the Moon's mantle, the usually deep inner layer beneath its crust, is believed to be exposed on the surface.

Two probes detached successfully, JAXA said -- one with a transmitter and another designed to trundle around the lunar surface beaming images to Earth.

This shape-shifting mini-rover, slightly bigger than a tennis ball, was co-developed by the firm behind the Transformer toys.

Russia, China and other countries from South Korea to the United Arab Emirates are also trying their luck to reach the Moon.

US firm Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander began leaking fuel after takeoff this month, dooming its mission.

Then contact with the spaceship was lost over a remote area of the South Pacific after it likely burned up in the Earth's atmosphere on its return.

NASA has also postponed plans for crewed lunar missions under its Artemis programme.

Two previous Japanese lunar missions -- one public and one private -- have failed.

In 2022, the country unsuccessfully sent a lunar probe named Omotenashi as part of the United States' Artemis 1 mission.

In April, Japanese startup ispace tried in vain to become the first private company to land on the Moon, losing communication with its craft after what it described as a "hard landing".

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