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Japan is officially the 5th country to successfully land on the moon.

LEV-2, one of the lunar rovers that traveled to the moon on the SLIM mission, captured an image of the lander's orientation on the lunar surface. JAXA

On January 19th at about 10:20 AM E.T. Japan's lunar lander SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) completed a soft landing on the moon. Immediately after landing they notice something very wrong. The lander's solar panels weren't charging. JAXA (The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) quickly realized that the lander had landed facing the wrong way due to one of the engines malfunctioning during the descent meaning that when the solar panels opened up they weren't facing the sun. Hence, the lander was unable to absorb enough sunlight to charge. The battery on the lander could only last for a few hours so unless they could find a way to rotate the solar panels the lander could go silent forever. Sadly nothing could be done and the lander went silent. But then, more than a week after the lander had gone silent the JAXA announced that they were able to reestablish the connection with SLIM. They were most likely able to regain connections due to the sun shifting positions letting the lander charge and regain power. With the connection reestablished, JAXA announced that they would be resuming operations. With SLIM regaining power it also sent some new images of the lunar surface. A couple of which were taken from the small rover that was aboard the lander. The one thing that JAXA didn’t expect was for one of the pictures to reveal the reason the lander was unable to collect sunlight. The image showed that the entire lander had landed upside down. The broken thruster hadn’t just caused the lander to rotate it caused it to completely flip over and land on its face. Other than the lander being upside down everything seemed fine and JAXA decided to proceed with the mission. The Lunar lander's main purpose is to analyze the composition of olivine rocks on the lunar surface in hopes of discovering more about the moon's origins. The current theory on how the moon formed states that early in the Earth's life it was crashed into by another smaller planet causing it to fragment. Most of the fragments got pulled back together by earth's gravity but the ones that didn’t, gravitated towards each other and fused to create the moon. Olivine is one of the main components of Earth's crust so finding it on the moon could be used as more evidence to support the current theory. The Rover analyzes the surface using a multi-band spectral camera which can see light beyond the range that our eyes can. The camera detects radiation allowing it to see multiple types of infrared light such as near-infrared (NIR), mid-infrared (MIR), and thermal infrared (TIR). SLIM was able to land within 180 feet of the target in a crater near the lunar equator using a technology called vision-based “pinpoint” landing. JAXA said that this landing showed an advancement in this technology and that it could be a very useful tool for landing in much rougher terrain in the future. The lander was only so far from its target because of a thruster that lost power making it drift a few dozen yards from the target. JAXA doesn’t have a clear date on when this mission will end but they don't think the lander will survive the lunar night and that began last Thursday (February 1st). 


 

Komiya, K. (2024, January 29). Japan’s Slim Probe regains power more than a week after Moon landing ... Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/technology/space/japans-slim-probe-regains-power-more-than-week-after-moon-landing-2024-01-29/


Montgomery, H., & Strickland, A. (2024, January 29). Japan’s “Moon sniper” wakes up and shares new images of lunar surface. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2024/01/29/asia/japan-moon-sniper-lander-resumes-intl-hnk-scn/index.html


 

Owen Dustin is a sophomore at Poudre High School. This is his first year writing for the Poudre Press. At school, he is on the Alpine Robotics team and the unified flag football team. Outside of school he likes to mountain bike, play video games, and hang out with friends.


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