February 20, 2024

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Japan makes history when a spacecraft lands on the moon, but with technical problems – Space

Japan makes history when a spacecraft lands on the moon, but with technical problems – Space

Japan became the fifth country to successfully land a rover on the moon early Saturday when the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) spacecraft touched down after “20 minutes of terror.”

However, officials said the solar panels intended to power the SLIM do not generate electricity, forcing it to rely on the ship's limited batteries.

“SLIM has communicated with the ground station and is receiving commands from Earth precisely. The spacecraft is responding to them in a normal way,” Hitoshi Kuninaka, Director General of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences – JAXA, said at a press conference after the landing attempt. “However, the solar cell appears to No electricity is produced at this time. Since we are unable to generate electricity, the process is done exclusively using battery.”

Unfortunately, there is only a small amount of battery power available, which will run out during the day. This means the mission will likely end soon, unless the movement of the sun allows the solar cells to charge. If the panels ultimately fail to convert sunlight into energy as the angles change, SLIM could prioritize sending back evidence of precise subsidence over surface analysis such as planned mineralogical surveys. However, as of now (Sunday morning), there is no update from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The landing represents a much-needed boost after recent setbacks in Japan's space program. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida congratulated the team on entering the exclusive moon landing club. National pride aside, officials expressed hope that this ambitious effort will inspire young people to take on difficult challenges that advance science.

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