Japan’s moon lander SLIM survives harsh night

Japan’s inaugural moon lander, heralded as a groundbreaking achievement by the nation’s space agency, has responded to signals from Earth, marking what officials have deemed a remarkable occurrence. The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) craft’s acknowledgment, received on Sunday, indicates its survival through a harsh lunar night, when temperatures can plunge to -170C, an outcome considered miraculous given that it wasn’t designed for such endurance.

Initiating a “pinpoint” touchdown on January 19th, the SLIM probe earned Japan the distinction of being the fifth country to successfully deploy a lunar probe. Despite its precise landing within 55 meters of the target, an issue with its solar panels jeopardized the mission. Landing inverted due to a likely thruster malfunction, the craft relied on dwindling battery power, necessitating premature hibernation.

After regaining power over a week later, communication was briefly established, indicating the craft’s resilience. However, further contact was limited due to extreme lunar temperatures.

While setbacks occurred, the mission achieved its primary goal of landing within a 100-meter radius of the target zone, potentially paving the way for future lunar exploration. Despite initial success, the exact landing location awaits confirmation.

The SLIM’s landing coincided with a significant milestone in lunar exploration as a privately-owned US lander, Odysseus, touched down near the moon’s south pole, showcasing advancements in space exploration.