An unmanned spacecraft has made a soft landing on the moon's surface despite reported telemetry issues
Japan became the fifth country to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon, achieving a soft landing on Saturday despite technical difficulties with the lander's power supply.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed on Saturday that the unmanned Lunar Exploration Intelligent Lander (SLIM) touched down shortly after midnight, restoring communications with Earth even as its solar panels appeared to malfunction.
“SLIM now runs only on its battery, and we are prioritizing the transmission of its data to EarthHitoshi Kuninaka, director of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's space laboratory, told reporters. The agency acknowledged that the solar panels on board the 700-kilogram (just over 1,540 pounds) rover may have been improperly oriented to take advantage of the sun's rays.
Slim was nicknamed “Moon sniper“To focus the program on agility and precise landings. The Japanese agency focused its efforts on landing within 100 meters (328 feet) of its intended target, a marked departure from the previous moon landing idea of”Accuracy“, which considered that landing several kilometers from the designated landing point was acceptable.
Powered by two main engines and 12 thrusters, SLIM compared inputs from multiple antennas, radar and cameras with existing satellite images of the Moon, using this “Vision-based navigation“To plot the most accurate trajectory,” according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
The lander reportedly unloaded two small probes upon landing:Jump vehicle“About the size of a microwave oven and a rover with wheels the size of a baseball.
The space agency acknowledged that it could take up to a month to determine whether SLIM's precision landing goals have been achieved. Japanese scientists explained that while the Tokyo spacecraft had landed on small asteroids twice before, the moon's larger size meant that SLIM only had one chance to complete the landing correctly.
Due to the moon's uneven polar terrain, precision landing technology is expected to be in high demand as private companies attempt to exploit the satellite. The poles are believed to contain a wealth of oxygen, fuel and water vital for any future commercial operations.
Earth's governments are legally prohibited from claiming ownership of parts of the Moon under the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty, although nothing in the treaty prohibits trade there.
No private company has succeeded in soft landing on the moon so far, although several Japanese startups intend to try and Tokyo hopes to send astronauts to the lunar surface alongside the US Artemis program. Until this week, only the United States, Russia, China and India were able to land spacecraft on this celestial body.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched the SLIM project in September, and reported that the $100 million project “It flew as planned” outside the Earth's atmosphere, propelled by a domestically produced Mitsubishi Heavy H2A rocket. It has been orbiting the Moon since last month.
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