Japan has accomplished a historic feat as its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) has successfully landed on the lunar surface. This achievement makes Japan the fifth nation in history to achieve such a remarkable feat.
In a press conference following the early-morning (local time) landing on the Moon, the directors of JAXA and the mission explained that “The soft landing was itself successful; SLIM has been communicating and receiving commands. However, it seems the solar cell is not generating electricity at this point in time.”
Despite the success of the soft landing, trouble has arisen for SLIM as its solar cells are not functioning as expected. As JAXA and the mission team work to identify the issue, it is clear that the solar cells may limit SLIM’s lifespan.
Solar cells can be finicky, just like the rest of the electrical workings in space. This has proven to be true for SLIM, and the team is still determining the exact cause of the cells’ malfunction. However, they remain hopeful as the other sensors on the lander are functioning correctly.
But time is of the essence. Running solely on battery power is not a long-term solution, and if the solar cells cannot be repaired, SLIM will only have a few hours of life left. And it’s possible that SLIM may have already exhausted its battery life during this time.
Despite the challenges, it’s important to acknowledge Japan and JAXA’s successful landing on the Moon. Landing on the Moon is a daunting task, and countless nations and private companies have attempted it in recent years without success. Even the smallest of setbacks can completely derail a lunar mission, as seen in the case of Astrobotic’s recent attempt.
There is some speculation that SLIM may have encountered some issues during its landing or that it’s not in an ideal physical configuration. However, JAXA has yet to confirm any of these speculations. The initial press conference was simply to announce the initial success of the landing and the functioning of the lunar lander.
The team did reveal that the two Lunar Excursion Vehicles (LEV-1 and LEV-2) carried by SLIM have successfully deployed. These sub-craft were released from the main lander while it hovered a few meters above the surface of the Moon. While they will operate semi-independently from the main lander, they are expected to capture images of the landing site and SLIM itself.
“Unfortunately, it is not something we can share with you immediately,” the team stated. If the sub-vehicles are operational, they should be able to provide this information soon.
This story is still developing, and we will provide updates as more information becomes available from JAXA. It’s an exciting time for space exploration, and Japan’s successful landing on the Moon is a significant step forward in our understanding of the universe.