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Japan Lunar Module Lands on the Moon Despite Broken Solar Panel 

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Japan Lunar Module Lands on the Moon Despite Broken Solar Panel 
Source: Pinterest

Japan Lunar Module Lands on the Moon Despite Broken Solar Panel

Source: Typical-Plantain256/Reddit

While it was the first time Japan would land a craft on the Moon, probes from four other countries already led the way. 

The Lunar race started with Russia, followed closely by the US, blazing the orbit leading to Earth’s only Moon. Russia and the US flew their first Lunar missions during the Cold War. The countries that came in third and fourth in the race to explore the Moon were China and India, making Japan the fifth.

Coming Behind Space Exploration Giants  

Source: JAXA/X

China touched down on the Moon in December 2013, and India’s Chandrayaan-3 arrived on August 23, 2023.

Last week, Japan became the fifth country to land a probe on the Moon. During a press briefing, the president of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Yamakawa Hiroshi, explained that the landing was successful. However, there were some slight glitches during the descent.

Meet the Double-Pronged Probe

Source: Karthekeyan N/LinkedIn

The JAXA mission to the Moon is called Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM). The launch rocket that delivered the SLIM payload is dual-purpose. 

Besides the moon probe, the rocket released another module during the early stages of its spaceflight. That first module is called XRISM, an X-ray space telescope that is now orbiting and sending images from a low orbit around Earth.

Swinging On the Cliff's Edge

Source: NASA/X

However, unlike XRISM, which deployed successfully, experts at JAXA’s control base suspect SLIM to be experiencing power glitches. 

By remotely assessing how well SLIM’s battery is charging, the experts say the probe’s solar panels are not charging as expected. Likewise, Hiroshi and his team have stated that SLIM may become forever unresponsive if they cannot resolve the power issue soon.

Will SLIM Live For Just a Few Hours? 

Source: JAXA

According to JAXA, the power cells on SLIM can only sustain the moon probe for a couple of hours before experiencing system shutdown. 

JAXA is still unable to ascertain the cause of the power glitch. It could be hardware damage in the solar panels, which Hiroshi says is unlikely. Another likely and more probable cause is a poor orientation of the solar panels toward the Sun.

Waiting for the Sun to Come Around  

Source: Pulse/LinkedIn

JAXA is ruling out hardware damage as the cause of the glitch because right after SLIM’s touchdown on the Moon, the team remotely tested other related hardware on the probe and found them to be in pristine condition.         

 So, the JAXA team keeps its fingers crossed for the next daylight encounter at SLIM’s landing site. Then, they can confirm the real problem.

Bull's Eye!  

Source: JAXA

One of the major objectives of the SLIM mission is to land the moon probe within a 330 feet radius of its target landing site. For the exploration of the probe to have scientific significance, JAXA has Shioli Crater as its target. 

After SLIM’s moon landing on Monday morning, JAXA officials speculate that the probe successfully hit the bull’s eye. However, the team may not be able to verify this claim until a month later.

Exploring Potentially Valuable Real Estate   

Source: Archive.org/Wikimedia Commons

In space exploration circles, the focus of Lunar missions is moving away from merely landing a craft on the Moon to targeting specific sites. 

According to the Planetary Society, the prospect of harnessing the resources on the Moon, spatial and material, is no longer a race for nations alone. Private entities are also joining the race to access Earth’s satellites.

Inexpensive Space Exploration Is Possible 

Source: NASA

Another goal of the SLIM mission is to prove that it is possible to launch cheap and sustainable tech payloads into space. Nonetheless, despite the mission’s cost, the labs or rovers can achieve great feats. 

For example, JAXA officials have revealed that SLIM weighs a paltry 440 pounds and costs around $120 million.