NASA's LRO Captures Images of Japan's SLIM Moon Lander: New Lunar Insights

NASA’s LRO Captures Images of Japan’s SLIM Moon Lander: New Lunar Insights

Japan joins the moon landing club after its SLIM probe touches down. But the little robot tipped over, leaving scientists hopeful they can still achieve their goals.

Five days later, NASA’s sharp-eyed Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted Japan’s SLIM lander on the moon’s surface. The LRO captured images showing the probe’s location and the changes its landing made, like bright streaks from a nearby crater and dark smudges where its engine blasted the soil.

The photo reveals SLIM tipped upside down. This prevents its solar panels from generating power, forcing reliance on limited battery supplies. But scientists are optimistic sunlight could still reach the panels from the opposite angle and recharge batteries.

SLIM stands for Smart Lander for Investigating Moon. It represents a technological leap for Japan’s space program. The probe pioneered high-precision landing techniques that may enable future exploration of scientifically interesting lunar sites.

SLIM aimed for the fresh Shioli crater, hoping to uncover geological and historical clues. Despite an engine failure causing a flip during descent, it still touched down just 328 feet from the intended spot on January 19th.

The mission intended to deploy two onboard rovers named EV-1 and LEV-2. Equipped with cameras and sensors, their goal was to explore the terrain. Both rovers are functioning well. LEV-2 even snapped a pic of its inverted host. The rovers should operate for several more weeks, beaming back valuable images and data.

Meanwhile, NASA’s LRO has orbited the moon since 2009. Its seven powerful instruments have compiled a scientific treasure trove. Managed from Maryland, the spacecraft’s camera captured the latest images of Japan’s SLIM lander and Russia, China, India and the U.S. now welcome Japan to the elite moon landing club.