Look! Japan’s Historic SLIM Moon Mission Came Back to Life — And Sent A New Photo

Despite SLIM’s hurdle, the mission has already completed other tasks.

Boulders and gravel cover the ground, and a ridge rises behind it. Farther away, the blackness of sp...

The Moon’s newest robotic mission is recuperating, according to an update from Japan’s space agency.

While the SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) spacecraft successfully landed on the Moon back on January 19 — making Japan the fifth country to ace the perilous maneuver — it landed on its side with its solar panels facing away from the Sun. Left without enough sunlight to generate renewable energy, SLIM’s battery dipped to 12 percent, forcing officials from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to power down the history-maker just two and a half hours after landing (though it did send some images and data back first).

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image of JAXA’s SLIM lander on the Moon’s surface on January 24, 2024.

NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Thankfully, there was a natural remedy; it just required some patience. In the weeks following SLIM’s landing, JAXA officials had hoped that sunlight would strike SLIM at better angles. (A day on Earth is 24 hours, but a day on the Moon lasts a month.) Ideally, it would reach its westward-facing panels and allow the lander to generate enough energy to complete its mission. This plan seems to have happened.

“Communication with SLIM was successfully established last night, and operations resumed!” JAXA announced in an update on Sunday via X (formerly Twitter).

Before powering down, SLIM had snapped some pictures of the rocks surrounding it with the Multi-Band Camera (MBC). When SLIM came back online, MBC got back to work. The team tried out the camera’s 10-band observation feature for the first time and used it to get a close-up look at a Moon rock JAXA had named “Toy Poodle.” Agency officials shared on Thursday that they are assigning dog names to rocks as a shorthand for their relative sizes.

Despite SLIM’s hurdle, the mission has already completed other tasks. Two small landers, LEV-1 and LEV-2, successfully deployed and have become Japan’s first Moon rovers. JAXA officials also studied the early MBC images and assigned dog names to a handful of Moon rocks as they waited for SLIM’s reawakening.

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