Japan holds hope for Moon Lander recovery: possibility to restore power after historic lunar landing

Despite initial uncertainties surrounding the functionality of the craft’s solar batteries, JAXA is gearing up for potential restoration efforts once sunlight reaches its solar panels, marking a significant development in the nation’s lunar exploration aspirations.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has kindled optimism as it explores the possibility of restoring power to its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) after a groundbreaking lunar touchdown. Despite initial uncertainties surrounding the functionality of the craft’s solar batteries, JAXA is gearing up for potential restoration efforts once sunlight reaches its solar panels, marking a significant development in the nation’s lunar exploration aspirations.

The historic moment unfolded at 20 minutes past midnight on Saturday when SLIM, nicknamed the ‘Moon Sniper’ for its precision landing capabilities, achieved a soft lunar landing. This achievement propelled Japan into an elite group of nations, becoming the fifth country to accomplish such a feat, joining the ranks of the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and India.

However, the jubilation of the successful landing was tempered by concerns about SLIM’s solar batteries. JAXA took a strategic decision to turn off the lander almost three hours post-landing, preserving the possibility of a recovery when the lunar surface is bathed in sunlight. In a statement issued on Monday, JAXA expressed relief and excitement after confirming the reception of technical and image data from the descent and lunar surface.

According to JAXA, the telemetry data indicates that SLIM’s solar cells are facing west. “If sunlight hits the moon from the west in the future, we believe there’s a possibility of power generation, and we’re currently preparing for restoration,” the agency stated. This cautious optimism underscores the meticulous planning and foresight involved in Japan’s lunar exploration mission.

SLIM’s mission extends beyond the achievement of a soft lunar landing. The craft was designed to explore a lunar crater where the moon’s mantle, typically hidden beneath its crust, is believed to be exposed. By analyzing rocks in this region, JAXA aims to unlock mysteries surrounding the moon’s water resources, a crucial aspect for potential future human bases and exploration missions to Mars.

Despite challenges, such as the uncertainty surrounding the craft’s precise landing within 100 meters of its intended spot, JAXA remains committed to the mission’s objectives. The agency disconnected SLIM’s battery strategically when it had 12 percent power remaining to avoid hindering a potential restart.

The mission also included the successful detachment of two probes—one equipped with a transmitter and another designed to explore the lunar surface, beaming images back to Earth. The innovative mini-rover, slightly larger than a tennis ball and developed by the creators of Transformer toys, adds an element of fascination to Japan’s lunar exploration efforts.

As JAXA meticulously analyzes data from the mission, the outcomes will be closely monitored not only for scientific advancements but also for the resilience and adaptability demonstrated in space exploration. The optimism surrounding the potential restoration of SLIM’s power reflects the indomitable spirit of exploration that drives nations to push the boundaries of human knowledge and reach for the stars.