Resilience on the Moon: Japan’s Lander Survives Second Harsh Lunar Night

By: | March 30th, 2024

Image by JAXA

Defying Expectations: The Journey of Japan’s Lunar Lander

Japan’s lunar lander has awakened after defying expectations by surviving a second two-week lunar night. The unmanned Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) probe successfully landed in January, marking Japan as the fifth nation to achieve a controlled landing on the lunar surface. However, upon landing, the lightweight spacecraft found itself at an awkward angle, causing its solar panels to face in the wrong direction.

Unexpected Resilience: The Story of SLIM’s Second Lunar Night

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced the probe’s unexpected reactivation. “We received a signal from SLIM last night and confirmed that SLIM had completed its second lunar night successfully,” the announcement stated.

The harsh lunar environment presents a major challenge for any spacecraft. During the lunar day, temperatures soar to a scorching 127°C (260°F), while the unforgiving lunar night plunges temperatures down to a bone-chilling -173°C (-280°F). These extreme swings can wreak havoc on electronics and batteries.

Experts feared the delicate lander wouldn’t survive its first lunar night, but it did. Now, overcoming the even more critical second night marks a significant victory. This unexpected resilience raises hope that the lander might even resume some functionality. While communication with the lander remains limited, mission scientists in Japan are analyzing the faint signals they’ve managed to receive. These signals offer valuable insights into the lander’s current state and the extreme lunar environment it’s enduring.

Moon landers frequently cease functioning during the lunar night, with no chance of reactivation. The fact that SLIM has endured two lengthy and arduous lunar nights represents a remarkable achievement for JAXA. The post highlighted: “According to the acquired data, some temperature sensors and unused battery cells are starting to malfunction, but the majority of functions that survived the first lunar night were maintained even after the second lunar night!”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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