After a successful landing on the moon on January 19, Japan’s SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) was turned off to preserve power levels. The reasoning, JAXA shared, was because the solar panels were facing westward, away from the Sun. Now, though, the agency is hopeful it could restore power in the future.
How exactly it would restore power to the lander is very much up to chance, though, as the agency notes. The current hope is that sunlight from the west will eventually hit the moon, allowing the agency to power the lander back up.
As one of the most exciting space missions of early 2024, Japan’s SLIM lander was our last hope for a successful moon landing this month, especially after Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander was forced to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere after a mishap caused a propellant leak, cutting off any chance of it landing on the Moon as intended.
Despite the setback, JAXA’s mission with the SLIM lander isn’t over yet. And, even if the lander isn’t able to come back online to actually investigate the Moon as designed, it still managed to pull off the most important part of its mission, landing within 100 meters of its target destination, something never done before with such a small spacecraft.
When it was shut down, Japan’s SLIM lander still had 12 percent battery, which JAXA says shouldn’t hamper its ability to restart. Before the shutdown, JAXA was able to gather some data about SLIM’s predicament, including images of its descent to the lunar surface (via BBC).
Whether or not JAXA’s hopes will pay off remains to be seen, but, if nothing else, Japan’s SLIM lander succeeded at landing on the Moon, one of the most difficult space endeavors that we’ve come across thus far. And, if it can even get a little sunlight, JAXA may be able to kick things back into gear and start gathering some more data about the Moon’s surface.