Japan’s SLIM moon lander revives on the lunar surface and resumes operation

Japan’s SLIM moon lander has resumed its scientific operations on Sunday night, January 28, 2024, as sunlight has revived the spacecraft.

Communication between the SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) spacecraft and the mission control room of Jaxa (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) has been successfully re-established, according to the statement of Jaxa.

Its onboard multi-band camera (MBC) has started scientific operations immediately after restoring contact.

Japanese rover LEV-2 photographs SLIM spacecraft on the lunar surface
SLIM spacecraft landed on the lunar surface upside down. (Image credit: JAXA)

What happened to the SLIM spacecraft?

Japan’s space agency (JAXA) launched SLIM spacecraft on September 6, 2023, at 7:42 p.m. EDT (or 23:42 UTC) from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan, atop a H-IIA rocket. 

The spacecraft entered lunar orbit on Christmas Day, December 25, 2023, and since then, its elliptical lunar orbit has been gradually lowered to start its landing descent phase.

The spacecraft started its landing descent on January 19, 2024, at 10:00 a.m. EST (or 15:00 UTC), i.e., 20 minutes before landing, when it was at an altitude of 15 km above the lunar surface.

Everything was normal up to a height of about 50 meters above the lunar surface. However, near this point, 34 seconds before landing at around 10:19:18 a.m. EST on January 19, an anomaly occurred, and the spacecraft lost one of its two main engines.

Now the upward thrust of its single main engine was only able to control its vertical velocity but not its horizontal velocity.

As a result SLIM spacecraft landed on the lunar surface upside down at around 10:19:52 a.m. EST on January 19, 2024.

It landed on the slope of Shioli crater on the lunar surface. The coordinates of the landing site are 13.3°S, 25.2°E, with an elevation of minus 2,992 feet (minus 912 meters).

After successful touchdown, communication between the spacecraft and the mission control room had been successfully established. However, its solar cell was not generating electricity to operate the spacecraft as it was facing west and the sun was facing east during the time of landing.

Around three hours after its landing, when its internal battery level went down to 12%, the spacecraft had been kept shut down intentionally on the lunar surface.

Japan’s space agency (JAXA) and the space-enthusiastic people around the world were waiting for the lunar afternoon because solar cells will revive only when the sun shines on the spacecraft from the west.

Now it’s lunar afternoon that’s why SLIM moon lander has revived on the lunar surface.

Please remember that a particular spot on the lunar surface faces sunlight for 14 consecutive days and then darkness for 14 consecutive days.

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About the Author


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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