26 February 2024

Moon lander sent by Japan survives second lunar night

26 February 2024

Japan’s first Moon lander has responded to a signal from Earth, suggesting it has survived a second freezing weeks-long lunar night, Japan’s space agency said.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) called the signal, received late Sunday night, a “miracle” because the probe was not designed to survive the lunar night, when temperatures can fall to minus 170C.

The craft, Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or Slim, made a “pinpoint” touchdown on January 20, making Japan the fifth country to successfully place a probe on the Moon.

But the probe landed the wrong way up, with its solar panels initially unable to see the Sun and had to be turned off within hours.

The craft regained power on the eighth day after its landing. For several days Slim collected geological data from Moon rocks, before going back into hibernation in late January to wait out another lunar night.

Jaxa said Sunday’s communication was kept short because it was still “lunar midday” and Slim was at a very high temperature, about 100C. Jaxa is now preparing to make contact again when the vehicle has cooled.

Scientists are hoping to find clues about the origin of the Moon by comparing the mineral compositions of rocks with those of Earth.

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