Photo Explains Why Japan's Moon Lander Isn't Talking

It landed upside down, and its solar panels aren't getting juice from the sun
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2024 1:12 PM CST
Japan's Moon Lander Wasn't Supposed to Land Like This
This image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency shows the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, on the moon. The craft is upside down.   (JAXA/Takara Tomy/Sony Group Corporation/Doshisha University via AP)

The good news is that Japan landed a spacecraft on the moon, making it only the fifth nation to accomplish the feat. The bad news is that the SLIM craft landed upside down, on its nose, reports The glitch explains why mission controllers in Japan have been unable to communicate with the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon—its solar panels are facing the wrong direction thus not receiving juice from the sun. Japan has shut down the craft but hopes to revive it in about a week when the sun will be shining from a different direction and onto the panels, per the New York Times.

Even with the landing miscue, the mission is far from a bust: The very fact that the photo exists is proof of that. It was taken by one of two small robots that deployed from the descending craft, as planned. So what happened? The BBC reports that one of two big thrusters on SLIM failed as it was approaching the moon. An onboard computer scrambled to adjust for the loss of thrust on half the craft, and it managed to do so enough to avoid a catastrophic collision. Even though SLIM did go upside down, it landed only about 180 feet from the target spot, which is remarkably precise. (More Japan stories.)

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