Japanese flight controllers re-established contact with the SLIM lunar landing robot on Saturday, eight days after the spacecraft.as it landed on January 19, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced on Sunday.
An engine malfunction moments before landing caused the Smart Landing for Investigating (the) Moon, or SLIM, spacecraft to drift sideways during its final descent instead of falling directly to the surface.
This lateral velocity apparently caused the probe to, leaving its solar cells, attached to the top of the lander, facing the sun. Without solar power, the spacecraft was forced to rely on the diminishing power of its onboard battery.
After downloading some photographs and collecting as much technical data as possible, commands were sent to shut down the spacecraft while it still had a small battery reserve.
At the time, officials said they hoped contact could be reestablished when the angle between the sun and SLIM’s solar cells changed as the moon traveled through its orbit.
Meanwhile, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photographed the SLIM landing site last week from an altitude of 50 miles, showing the spacecraft as a tiny speck of light reflected off the moon’s crater surface:
No details were immediately available Sunday, but the team said in a post on (multiband camera), and managed to get first light.”
The target was a nearby rock formation nicknamed “toy poodle.”
It was not immediately clear whether enough power was available to recharge SLIM’s battery, how long engineers expected the spacecraft to operate with the available power or whether it could be shut down again to wait for a additional energy production.
Despite its problems, SLIM successfully landed on the Moon, making Japan the fifth country to successfully land on the moon after the United States, the former Soviet Union, China and India.
Three commercially developed robotic landers launched in recent years from Japan, Israel and the United States all suffered malfunctions that prevented intact landings.
A fourth commercial lander, built by Houston-based Intuitive Machines, is expected to launch next month.
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