Miracle on the Moon? Japan’s Lunar Lander Unexpectedly Phones Home

hero jaxa slim lunar lander
Japanese space agency JAXA reported it had received a response from its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) lunar lander from the surface of the moon. The unexpected response came nearly a month after SLIM made a “pinpoint” landing on the lunar surface.

SLIM successfully landed on the Moon on January 19, 2024 (albeit upside down), becoming only the fifth country to do so. After landing, JAXA stated the lunar lander, also nicknamed “Moon Sniper” for its precision landing technology, had encountered an electrical issue with the solar panel, but the space agency believed SLIM was still operational. 

The issue caused concern about whether SLIM could keep enough power to communicate back to Earth in the future. The team hoped it might be possible for the solar panel to recharge the solar cell at a later date once the Sun’s direction was in a position do so. Those hopes were realized after the lunar lander successfully sent communication back to Earth yesterday.

jaxa tweet slim communication

In a tweet, JAXA remarked that the response confirmed that the lunar lander had made it through the lunar night and was able to maintain communication capabilities. It added that communication with SLIM was ended after a short period because the temperature of the communication equipment was “very high.” The Japanese space agency said it is preparing to resume operations once instrument temperatures have sufficiently cooled down.

Shortly before JAXA powered down SLIM after landing, the spacecraft was able to transmit an image captured during its scanning operations of the lunar surface. The scanning operations were performed by “moving the adjustable mirror” and was “for [a] preliminary examination of rocks of scientific interest that are situated around the SLIM landing site.”

slim lunar rock image

In a press release, JAXA remarked, “Based on this landscape image, the team is sorting out rocks of interest, assigning a nickname to each of them, with [the] intent of communicating their relative sizes smoothly by the names.”

JAXA had previously stated that SLIM was not designed to survive a lunar night. The fact it has and is still capable of communicating is a testament to the hard work and competence of the SLIM team.