Japan’s Moon Lander Survives a Harsh Lunar Night and Prepares for the Next Phase

Japan’s lunar lander, SLIM, resiliently endures freezing lunar conditions, marking a triumph for the country’s space program. After surviving the two-week lunar night unexpectedly, the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) has entered a dormant state once more, with plans for another operational attempt later this month, according to Japan’s space agency.

Despite its initial touchdown at an awkward angle in January, rendering its solar panels misaligned, SLIM managed to revive briefly, conducting vital scientific observations of a crater using its high-spec camera. Its reawakening this week following the harsh lunar night, where temperatures plummet to minus 133 degrees Celsius, came as a surprise to scientists.

However, recognising the increased risk of failure due to extreme temperature fluctuations, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) remains determined to reactivate SLIM when sunlight returns in late March, as stated in their recent announcement.

SLIM’s successful landing, dubbed the “Moon Sniper” for its precision landing technology, signifies a significant achievement for Japan’s space endeavours, particularly following recent setbacks. Japan becomes the fifth country to achieve a “soft landing” on the Moon, joining the ranks of the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and India.

The mission’s primary objective is to explore a portion of the moon’s mantle, a layer typically concealed beneath its crust, offering valuable insights into lunar geology.

As Japan celebrates its lunar milestone, NASA prepares for its own lunar ambitions, planning to send astronauts back to the Moon within this decade. Collaborating with international partners, the US aims to establish long-term habitats on the Moon, leveraging polar ice reserves for essential resources such as drinking water and rocket fuel, ultimately paving the way for future missions to Mars.