Japan’s Lunar Lander Might Not Withstand Moon’s Nighttime Conditions


Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon mission (SLIM) landed on the Moon on January 19, but it is currently in an upside-down position. Consequently, its solar panels are not directly facing the Sun, limiting its operational capacity. Additionally, it is uncertain whether the spacecraft will endure temperatures exceeding -200 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two weeks.

Despite the challenging lunar conditions, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has declared the mission a success. This verdict is based on the significant amount of data collected, including numerous images from a poorly understood region of the Moon. JAXA is currently analyzing this data to identify rocks and estimate mineral chemical compositions, hoping to unravel the mysteries of the Moon’s origin.

Japan has thus become the fifth nation to successfully land on the Moon, a feat that has previously seen high-profile failures, even from the most experienced space programs. Notably, the U.S.-based Astrobotics’ Peregrine craft mission to the Moon ended in disaster, with the private lunar lander disintegrating in Earth’s atmosphere earlier this year.

Further lunar missions are planned by different space agencies. For example, NASA’s Artemis mission, initially set to land on the Moon in 2025, has been postponed to at least 2026 or 2027 due to various developmental issues. Japan’s ispace, Inc. also failed in its lunar landing attempt in 2023 due to a miscalculation.

Meanwhile, NASA is preparing to launch its Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) in November. The rover will investigate the lunar South Pole during its 100-day mission. The data collected will be instrumental in determining the distribution of water on the Moon and identifying resources that could support future human space explorations.

Despite these advancements, the United States remains the only country to have successfully landed humans on the Moon.



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