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The spacecraft known as "Moon Sniper" from Japan has successfully landed and made contact with its target, but is currently facing low power levels.
Science & Health

The spacecraft known as “Moon Sniper” from Japan has successfully landed and made contact with its target, but is currently facing low power levels.

On Saturday, Japan became the fifth country to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon in a gentle manner. However, their Moon Sniper probe was experiencing power issues due to a malfunction with its solar battery.

Following a tense 20-minute descent, the space agency JAXA announced that its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) successfully landed and was able to establish communication.

According to JAXA official Hitoshi Kuninaka, if the solar cells do not work, the Moon Sniper spacecraft, known for its precise technology, will only have enough power to last a few hours.

As the scientists at mission control focused on collecting data while they had the opportunity, Kuninaka proposed that the batteries may resume functioning once the angle of the sun shifted.

During a news conference, he stated that the solar battery most likely did not fail. There is a chance that it is not aligned in the originally intended direction.

“He stated that if the descent had not been successful, the probe would have crashed at a dangerously high velocity and consequently, all of its operations would have ceased.”

“He mentioned that information is being transmitted to Earth.”

In recent years, SLIM and other lunar missions have been launched by various countries and private companies, marking 50 years since the initial moon landing by humans.

There are numerous instances of crash landings, communication breakdowns, and other technical difficulties. Apart from the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and India, no other countries have successfully landed on the moon.

Bill Nelson, the leader of NASA, expressed his “congratulations to Japan for being the fifth country to successfully land on the moon in history.”

“We highly appreciate our partnership in the universe and ongoing cooperation,” he stated.

JAXA aims to examine the data collected during the landing in order to determine whether the craft successfully landed within 100 meters of its intended target.

SLIM sought to reach a crater on the moon’s surface where the mantle, typically buried deep beneath the crust, is thought to be visible.

According to JAXA, two probes have successfully separated. One contains a transmitter while the other is a mini-rover that will traverse the moon’s surface and transmit images back to Earth.

This transforming miniature rover, slightly larger than a tennis ball, was created in collaboration with the company responsible for producing Transformer toys.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, stated that although the accuracy of the touchdown still needs to be confirmed, he believes that the mission is a significant accomplishment.

According to AFP, there could be multiple reasons for the issue with the solar panel.

McDowell hypothesized that either a wire became disconnected, a wire was attached incorrectly, or the lander is inverted and unable to detect sunlight due to an unknown factor.

The researcher expressed his wish for JAXA to successfully retrieve the landing images. However, the experiment to analyze the composition of nearby rocks may not yield any results.

He stated that the experiment was merely an added benefit and not crucial to the mission.

Two past missions to the moon by Japan, one funded by the government and one funded privately, were unsuccessful.

In 2022, the nation’s attempt to send a lunar probe called Omotenashi as a part of the United States’ Artemis 1 mission was unsuccessful.

In April, a Japanese startup called ispace attempted to be the first private company to successfully land on the moon. However, they unfortunately lost communication with their spacecraft during a “hard landing.”