spaceconnect logo

Japan’s Slim lander powers back for sunset

Japan’s space agency has successfully reactivated its lander that touched down on the Moon earlier this month, following the sun moving to a new position in the sky.

The Slim spacecraft is now using its multi-band spectral camera to analyse the composition of olivine rocks and has already sent back a fresh image to Earth.

However, the mission is likely to end for a final time after the next lunar night begins on Thursday and the lander’s solar panels once again stop working.

It comes after Slim touched down on its nose earlier this month, ending up in a position that meant its panels faced west and, therefore, away from the sun.


The incident forced project leaders to run the device entirely on battery power, before putting it into a temporary hibernation when the charge hit 12 per cent.

Moon missions usually attempt to land early in the lunar day, when the sun rises from the east, giving two weeks of illumination before it sets in the west for two subsequent weeks of darkness.

Sunset over the Shioli crater, where Slim is situated, is expected early on 31 January, but the sun has now moved to the west allowing the panels to temporarily power back up.

“Communication with SLIM was successfully established last night, and operations resumed!” said JAXA on social media on Monday.


“Science observations were immediately started with the MBC [multi-band spectral camera], and we obtained first light for the 10-band observation.

“This figure shows the ‘toy poodle’ observed in the multi-band observation.”

Despite Slim’s early power issues, it still achieved its main objective of achieving a precise landing, touching down 55 metres east of its original target.

Previous international missions have traditionally aimed for a landing zone of several square kilometres.

“The big objective of Slim is to prove the high-accuracy landing – to land where we want on the lunar surface, rather than landing where we can,” said Yamakawa Hiroshi, chief executive of JAXA, before the touchdown.

The Slim mission – or Smart Lander for Investigating Moon – aimed to land on a sloped rim inside the 300-metre-wide Shioli crater.

It’s been nicknamed the “Moon Sniper” for its goal of landing so close to its target point.

Slim also sent back an early photo of its own bodged landing, taken by a baseball-sized robot called Sora-Q, which was successfully ejected moments before the touchdown.

Not only did Sora-Q move on the surface to take the photo, but a second rover, Lev-1, managed to hop.

“The accomplishment of Lev-1’s leaping movements on the lunar surface, inter-robot communication between Lev-1 and Sora-Q, and fully autonomous operations represent groundbreaking achievement,” said Japan’s space agency, JAXA.

“It would be regarded as a valuable technology demonstration for future lunar explorations, and the acquired knowledge and experience will be applied in upcoming missions.”

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

Receive the latest developments and updates on Australia’s space industry direct to your inbox. Subscribe today to Space Connect here.

Receive the latest developments and updates on Australia’s space industry direct to your inbox. Subscribe today to Space Connect.