Japan's SLIM Lunar Lander Successfully Reaches the Moon, Faces Imminent End

Japan’s SLIM Lunar Lander Successfully Reaches the Moon, Faces Imminent End

Japan just pulled off a major accomplishment by becoming only the fifth country ever to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon. Their lunar lander, called SLIM, touched down on the moon’s surface today after a flawless flight from Earth.

Shortly after landing, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (or JAXA for short) reported that SLIM is having issues generating power from its solar cells. Without enough juice, the battery could die in just a few hours, cutting the mission tragically short.

In a press conference today, JAXA said that while communication systems and other instruments seem to be working fine, the faulty solar panel means SLIM is basically running on fumes. They don’t know yet if the panels got damaged during landing or if they’re just not angled properly to catch sunlight. Either way, time is running out to fix the problem.

The little rovers that flew to the moon with SLIM were able to drive off successfully before landing. So at least that part of the mission went as planned! JAXA is now trying urgently to get as much science data as possible before the lander blinks out.

SLIM (which stands for Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) was designed to touch down within 100 meters of its destination at Shioli crater. If it weren’t for this power issue, the lander’s precision landing tech would have been a real feather in JAXA’s cap.

Even if SLIM doesn’t last long, landing on the moon is a huge achievement for Japan’s space program. Only the US, China, India and Russia have done it before now. And it stands in stark contrast to that failed US moon lander called Peregrine that crashed a few weeks ago.