Japan’s Mini Probe Lands on Moon, Solar Issue Arises

Japan’s Mini Probe Lands on Moon, Encounters Solar Issue

In the early hours of January 20th, Japan’s small lunar probe SLIM landed on the lunar surface, but encountered a malfunction in its solar panels, rendering it incapable of generating power.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) live broadcast showed that around midnight on the 20th, Tokyo time, the probe began its descent while orbiting the moon. Approximately 20 minutes later, the footage revealed the probe completing a vertical descent and entering landing mode.

During a press conference around 2 a.m., JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa confirmed that SLIM landed on the lunar surface at 12:20 a.m. on the 20th, Tokyo time. She said that the probe was able to communicate with the ground after landing, respond to ground commands, and receive instructions. However, the solar panels failed to generate power, so the probe relied on its onboard batteries for operation. Nevertheless, the onboard batteries could only last for a few hours. They stated that their priority was to have the probe transmit the data obtained during landing back to Earth. Additionally, it would take some time to determine whether SLIM achieved a precise landing within a 100-meter margin of error.

SLIM Probe Landing

SLIM’s scheduled landing site was located near a small circular mountain on the southern side of the lunar equator. The primary objective of this lunar probe mission was to validate precise landing technology for future lunar exploration missions, as well as for missions to planets with even more challenging landing conditions than the moon.

While SLIM did not carry a lunar rover, it did carry an ultra-small deformable robot capable of moving and capturing images on the lunar surface. According to Kuninaka Jun, this deformable robot and another small probe had successfully detached from the SLIM probe.

Originally, SLIM was intended to utilize its onboard spectral camera to analyze the composition of rocks from the lunar mantle after a successful landing, in order to explore the moon’s origins. However, Kuninaka Jun stated that the camera could only operate when there was power.

SLIM has approximate dimensions of 2.7 meters in length, 1.7 meters in width, and 2.4 meters in height, with a mass of about 200 kilograms excluding propellants. It was launched on September 7, 2023, marking Japan’s third attempt to land a probe on the moon. Prior to this, JAXA’s first lunar probe abandoned its lunar exploration mission due to a failure to establish communication with the ground, while the lunar lander of the Japanese private company “ispace” crashed on the lunar surface due to deviation from its landing site.

(Source: Yangcheng Evening News, Xinhua News, CCTV News, The Paper News)

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