Japan Trying to Bring Dead Moon Lander Back to Life

Bring Me to Life

Japan's Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) lander had to be shut down just three hours after touching down on the lunar surface last week.

The lander, which technically speaking still managed to make Japan the fifth country to land a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon, didn't quite stick the landing. For hours, teams at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency struggled to get the spacecraft to charge its batteries using its solar panels.

As it turns out, the issue is that the panels were pointing west and away from the Sun.

While that may sound like the small spacecraft's fate is sealed, JAXA isn't ready to give up just yet. There's still a chance SLIM may jump back to life, giving it a potentially new lease on life.

"If sunlight hits the Moon from the west in the future, we believe there's a possibility of power generation, and we're currently preparing for restoration," JAXA wrote in a new statement.

Going Under

At first, the mission appeared to go as planned, with the spacecraft making a controlled descent to the Moon's cratered surface. Several hours of radio silence from JAXA followed, triggering speculation about the lander's fate.

Behind the scenes, teams had to act quickly as battery capacity was diminishing quickly.

"The battery was disconnected according to our procedures with 12 percent power remaining, in order to avoid a situation where the restart (of the lander) would be hampered," the latest statement reads.

Scientists are now poring over the data SLIM managed to collect before it went dark.

"We were able to complete the transmission of technical and image data acquired during the descent and on the lunar surface before the power was switched off," JAXA said. "We’re relieved and beginning to get excited after confirming a lot of data has been obtained."

It's a glimmer of hope — with the possibility of the Sun charging the spacecraft's solar panels still on the table, scientists are eager to have SLIM jump back into action.

And even if it doesn't, it's still a considerable feat that's worth celebrating, especially considering all of the failed landing attempts that preceded it.

"The post-landing posture didn’t go as planned, but we may be able to produce plenty of results and we’re happy that the landing succeeded," JAXA's statement reads.

More on the mission: Japanese Moon Lander Dying After Touching Down on Lunar Surface