Japan’s SLIM moon lander survives the harsh lunar nights

Japan’s SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) moon lander is still operational on the lunar surface because it has survived the harsh lunar nights.

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

According to the statement of Japan’s space agency (JAXA), “Last night (night of February 25, 2024), a command was sent to SLIM and a response received, confirming that the spacecraft has made it through the lunar night and maintained communication capabilities!”

However, Japan’s space agency terminated communication with SLIM after a short time, as it was still lunar midday and the temperature of the communication equipment had reached over 100 degrees Celsius.

That’s why Japan’s space agency has decided to resume operations when instrument temperatures have sufficiently cooled.

During the overnight operation, the SLIM spacecraft took the below image of the lunar surface.

SLIM spacecraft captured an image of the lunar surface on the night of February 25, 2024
SLIM spacecraft captured an image of the lunar surface on the night of February 25, 2024 (as of Earth). However, it was lunar midday.

On Wednesday night, January 31, 2024, Japan’s SLIM moon lander entered a dormant state for two weeks, as the spacecraft was not designed for harsh lunar nights.

Related article: Japan’s SLIM moon lander enters a dormant state as lunar night comes

A particular spot on the lunar surface faces sunlight for approximately 14.5 consecutive days and then darkness for approximately 14.5 consecutive days.

During the long lunar night, the lunar nighttime temperature drops to about -208°F (-130°C), so there is a possibility that the solar cells of the spacecraft will be completely dead.

When the spacecraft entered a dormant state, Japan’s space agency said they would try to wake it up from mid-February, when the sun will shine again on SLIM’s solar cells.

And really, the spacecraft has survived the harsh lunar nights, and now Japan is hoping it will continue its operation.

SLIM was the first Japanese spacecraft that landed on the lunar surface successfully on Friday, January 19, 2024.

Please remember that India’s Chandrayaan-3, which landed on the lunar surface on August 23, 2023, couldn’t wake up after a long, harsh lunar night.

Related article: Japan’s SLIM spacecraft lands on the moon but suffers electricity generation problems
Related article: Japan’s SLIM moon lander revives on the lunar surface and resumes operation

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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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