Japan's lunar lander has regained power a full nine days after it landed on the moon's surface nearly upside down and was subsequently switched off, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) announced. A change in the sun's position allowed the solar panels to receive light and charge the probe's battery, allowing JAXA to re-establish communication.
Things were looking dire shortly after the SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) touched down. The agency immediately noticed a problem with power generation, but was able to launch a pair of probes onto the moon's surface. The Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2 (LEV-2) snapped an incredible photo of SLIM, showing it to be upside down with its panels pointing away from the sun. The cause was found to be a malfunction of the main engine.
Communication with SLIM was successfully established last night, and operations resumed! Science observations were immediately started with the MBC, and we obtained first light for the 10-band observation. This figure shows the “toy poodle” observed in the multi-band observation. pic.twitter.com/WYD4NlYDaG
— 小型月着陸実証機SLIM (@SLIM_JAXA) January 29, 2024
JAXA thought there was a chance the probe could recover once the sun's rays pointed more toward the solar panels, and that's exactly what transpired. Shortly after power was regained, it snapped another picture of a previously imaged rock formation called "toy poodle" using a multi-band spectral camera. The team is also targeting several other rocks with canine-themed names, including "St. Bernard," "Bulldog" and "Shibainu."
The upside-down landing may have seemed like an unrecoverable fault, but it looks like the mission can now proceed more or less as planned. While the baseball-sized LEV-2 explores the surface (relaying data via the LEV-1 probe, which also has two cameras), SLIM will grab whatever science it can.
In any case, the mission was already deemed a success, as the primary goal was a precision landing. It did just that, hitting a spot just 55 meters (180 feet) of its target. It's not known how much longer SLIM can function, as it was never designed to survive a solar night and the next one happens on Thursday.