NEW DELHI: Japan‘s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) was put to sleep after it miraculously woke up and endured the frigid, two-week lunar night.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed that the unmanned SLIM, dubbed the “Moon Sniper” for its precision landing technology, is currently in a dormant state after waking up unexpectedly following its initial touchdown in January.
Initially touching down at a skewed angle that left its solar panels facing the wrong direction, SLIM defied expectations by reactivating when the sun’s angle shifted. This unexpected reawakening allowed the probe to conduct scientific observations of a lunar crater using its high-spec camera during a brief two-day period.
Despite not being designed for the extreme lunar nights, where temperatures plummet to minus 133 degrees, SLIM once again surprised scientists by coming back to life after enduring the two-week-long lunar night. JAXA officially announced SLIM’s return to a dormant state on March 1, sharing an image of the lunar surface captured by the probe.
The space agency plans to make another operational attempt later in March, acknowledging the increased likelihood of failure due to the severe temperature fluctuations. The announcement follows the recent success of the uncrewed American lander, Odysseus, which became the first private spacecraft to reach the Moon. Unfortunately, Odysseus sent its final image before its power banks depleted.
SLIM’s precision landing technology enabled it to touch down within its target landing zone on January 20, marking a significant achievement for Japan’s space program. The success comes after a series of setbacks, positioning Japan as the fifth nation to achieve a “soft landing” on the Moon, following the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and India.
The primary objective of SLIM’s mission is to examine a specific part of the Moon’s mantle, the usually deep inner layer beneath its crust, believed to be accessible.
Nasa is gearing up for its own lunar exploration efforts later this decade, with plans to return astronauts to the Moon. The broader international vision includes developing long-term habitats in the region, leveraging polar ice for drinking water, and utilizing it as rocket fuel for future missions, including voyages to Mars.
(With AFP inputs)

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