Japan hopes sunlight can revive the nation’s first successful moon lander

Japan hopes that the country’s first successful lunar lander SLIM (Smart Lander for Lunar Investigation) will wake up when sunlight begins to shine on the lunar surface from the west.

Japan’s SLIM spacecraft landed on the moon (artist’s illustration)
Japan’s SLIM spacecraft landed on the moon (artist’s illustration). (Image credit: JAXA)

After a successful landing on the lunar surface on Friday, January 19, at 10:20 a.m. EST (or 15:20 UTC), the solar cell of the spacecraft was not generating power, and it was running with the help of its internal battery.

The spacecraft has landed on the slope of SHIOLI crater on the lunar surface. The coordinates of the landing site are 13.3°S, 25.2°E. So it’s near to the lunar equator.

The SLIM spacecraft was intentionally shut down just three hours after landing on Friday, January 19, at 12:57 p.m. EST (or 17:57 UTC) when the internal battery level was 12%.

The battery was disconnected to avoid being unable to restart for a recovery operation due to over-discharge, Japan’s space agency, JAXA, said in a statement.

According to the telemetry data, SLIM’s solar cells are facing west. So if sunlight begins to shine on the lunar surface from the west, there is a possibility of generating power, and we are preparing for recovery, Jaxa said in a statement.

The technical and imaging data have been successfully acquired from the moon lander and transmitted to the ground control room before the spacecraft’s power was switched off.

The JAXA team is now preparing to announce the status of SLIM and current results on Thursday, January 25, at 12 a.m. EST (or 05:00 UTC) through a press briefing.

Although the attitude after landing did not go as planned, we are glad we could achieved so much and are happy to have landed successfully. We’re also excited to analyse the data, Jaxa said in a statement.

A lunar day is equal to about 29.5 Earth days. So a particular spot on the lunar surface faces sunlight for 14 consecutive days and then darkness for 14 consecutive days. So sunset occurs 14 days after sunrise at a particular spot on the lunar surface.

As the mission completely depends on solar power, the spacecraft landed at lunar dawn when the sun rose in the eastern horizon.

So solar cells are likely to be active during lunar afternoon because the cells are facing west according to the telemetry data.

Related article: Japan’s SLIM spacecraft lands on the moon but suffers electricity generation problems

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Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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