March 4, 2024

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The Japanese lunar module regains power after landing upside down

The Japanese lunar module regains power after landing upside down

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Japan revived a spacecraft that lost power shortly after its historic lunar landing this month, allowing it to resume a mission that seeks to shed light on the moon's origins and composition.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed on Monday that it had established contact with the spacecraft, which is now resting on the surface of the moon in what appears to be an upside-down position.

“Scientific observations began immediately using the multi-band spectroscopic camera,” JAXA wrote on social media.

Japan became the fifth country to land a spacecraft on the moon this month, after the Soviet Union, the United States, China and most recently India, but the feat was disrupted by a power problem that threatened to jeopardize the mission.

JAXA said the spacecraft, known as Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (Slim), touched down on the lunar surface about 55 meters east of the target landing site – a successful demonstration of precision landing technology, which allows targets to have a landing zone 100 meters away, compared to an area Tens of kilometers for previous lunar missions.

But the agency added that it was possible that one of Slim's two main engines failed at an altitude of 50 meters, causing the spacecraft to land with its engines pointed upward. This angle made it difficult for sunlight to reach his solar panels, and Slim was manually powered down after he transmitted the captured data and images to Earth.

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The Lunar Exploration Intelligent Lander, shown in a photo taken by the Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2, landed upside down on the Moon. © Takara Tomy/Sony Group/Doshisha University/Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency/Reuters

Five days after Japan made a soft landing on the near side of the moon, NASA said its lunar reconnaissance probe… Slim spotted Near the Theophilus crater while flying 80 kilometers above the lunar surface.

A JAXA official said the change in the direction of sunlight allowed the solar panels to be recharged, but it is still unclear how long the power will last. The original mission was intended to last only several days.

Using a multi-band spectroscopic camera, Slim is designed to analyze the composition of rocks on the Moon's surface, which could provide vital clues about the Moon's formation and origins.

The mission, which took decades to develop, was followed by a series of setbacks JapanSpace exploration plans. In March last year, the country's newest missile, the H3, was ordered to self-destruct after an engine failure shortly after launch.

An attempt by private exploration company I Space to achieve the world's first commercial moon landing failed in April.

The United States and other allies are closely following advances in Japanese space technology as they seek closer cooperation to compete against China. Experts said that Slim's “precision landing” technology would be crucial for future missions such as NASA's Artemis project.

The US space agency aims to land astronauts near the south pole of the moon. Craters in permanent shadow at the poles may contain large reservoirs of ice, offering huge potential for scientific discoveries, but also posing major navigational problems for safe landings and operations.

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