Japan's moon lander snaps eerie photo — and it could be its last

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SLIM satellite lander imaging lunar surface

JAXA's SLIM satellite lander took 1 past photograph of nan lunar aboveground earlier nightfall, which will past astir 2 weeks. Credit: JAXA / SLIM

Japan's first satellite ngo has apt travel to an extremity aft a astonishing late-game comeback, pinch nan spacecraft taking 1 past photograph of its surroundings earlier nan deep-freeze of night.

The SLIM spacecraft, short for Smart Lander for Investigating nan Moon, took nan image pinch an onboard camera connected Feb. 1, showing ominous shadows formed upon a slope of nan Shioli crater, its landing tract connected nan adjacent broadside of the moon.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency — NASA's Japanese space counterpart known arsenic JAXA — released nan image 3 days aft re-establishing interaction pinch SLIM. The squad had unopen down nan robotic spacecraft, which accidentally landed upside down, connected Jan. 20 to conserve energy. Because SLIM's star panels weren't pointing successful nan correct direction, nan lander was incapable to make power.

But mission controllers connected Earth held retired hope nan sun's perspective would alteration eventually, allowing them to reboot nan lander. Nine days later, they sewage their wish, rousing SLIM from its sleep.

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Since Monday, nan spacecraft has analyzed rocks astir nan crater pinch a multi-band spectral camera. JAXA picked the landing spot because of what it could show scientists astir the moon's formation. A starring mentation is that nan satellite was created aft thing tremendous collided pinch Earth. If that's true, overmuch of nan moon's mantle could beryllium akin to Earth rock. Astronomers estimate that immoderate ejected lunar mantle worldly could beryllium recovered adjacent nan aboveground of nan crater, providing samples for further research.

The typical camera completed its planned observation, capable to study much targets than primitively expected, according to an English translator of a news merchandise from nan abstraction agency.

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SLIM taking its past satellite image

The SLIM spacecraft took 1 past photograph of nan lunar aboveground earlier entering a dormant authorities connected Feb. 1, 2024. Credit: JAXA / SLIM

SLIM analyzing lunar rocks

The spacecraft has analyzed rocks astir nan crater pinch a multi-band spectral camera. Credit: JAXA / Ritsumeikan University / University of Aizu

SLIM zooming successful connected a lunar rock

Astronomers estimate that immoderate ejected lunar mantle worldly could beryllium recovered adjacent nan aboveground of nan crater. Credit: JAXA / Ritsumeikan University / University of Aizu

"Based connected nan ample magnitude of information we person obtained, we are proceeding pinch (analyses) to place rocks and estimate nan chemic creation of minerals, which will thief lick nan enigma of nan root of nan moon," JAXA said in a statement translated by Google.

Though landing nan spacecraft connected its caput wasn't portion of nan plan, nan JAXA squad said nan ngo accomplished its superior extremity of a "pinpoint landing" — that is, 1 pinch an accuracy of little than 100 meters, aliases astir 100 yards. Data confirmed nan lander was at astir 10 meters disconnected its mark, according to abstraction agency officials, which is comparable to 11 yards aliases less.

The spacecraft has now entered a dormant state, prompted by nightfall connected nan moon. Because 1 rotation of nan satellite is astir 27 Earth days, nan alleged "lunar night," erstwhile nan satellite is nary longer receiving sunlight, lasts astir 2 weeks.

a satellite rover imaged nan SLIM satellite lander

A satellite rover that traveled aboard Japan's spacecraft to nan lunar aboveground revealed nan lander is upside down. Credit: JAXA / SLIM

Not overmuch tin past nan -270 degrees Fahrenheit brought connected by acheronian — not moreover robots. In this freezing temperature, soldered joints connected hardware and mechanical parts break, and batteries die.

But remainder assured, nan JAXA squad will effort to pass pinch its scrappy satellite lander erstwhile nan sun rises again.

"Although SLIM was not designed for nan harsh lunar nights," JAXA said connected X, formerly known arsenic Twitter, "We scheme to effort to run again from mid-February, erstwhile nan Sun will radiance again connected SLIM’s star cells."

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Elisha Sauers is nan abstraction and early tech newsman for Mashable, willing successful asteroids, astronauts, and astro nuts. In complete 15 years of reporting, she's covered a assortment of topics, including health, business, and government, pinch a penchant for FOIA and different nationalist records requests. She antecedently worked for The Virginian-Pilot successful Norfolk, Virginia, and The Capital successful Annapolis, Maryland, now known arsenic The Capital-Gazette. Her activity has earned galore authorities awards, including nan Virginia Press Association's apical honor, Best successful Show,  and national recognition for communicative storytelling. In her first twelvemonth covering abstraction for Mashable, Sauers grabbed a National Headliner Award for hit reporting. Send abstraction tips and communicative ideas to [email protected] aliases matter 443-684-2489. Follow her connected Twitter astatine @elishasauers.

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