Japan’s SLIM Moon Probe Landed On Its Nose

Thanks to a pair of tiny lunar rovers, the mystery of Japan’s crippled SLIM Moon lander has been solved.

When JAXA’s SLIM spacecraft touched down on the Moon on January 19, 2024, it was a real cause for Japan to celebrate.

While the lander was intact and its systems were operating as predicted, the solar panels weren’t charging the battery, giving SLIM only hours to live.

By a stroke of good fortune, SLIM had deployed two tiny rovers called Lunar Excursion Vehicle 1 and Sora-Q before landing.

Shaped like a toy ball, Sora-Q has a camera aboard, which it used to take images of the landing area and of SLIM.

It then relayed the images back to Mission Control using LEV-1, which has a powerful enough transmitter to directly contact Earth, though at a very low data rate.

The result of these images was to show that SLIM was sitting on its nose with the solar panel pointing west.

The good news is that the mission is continuing and JAXA hopes that the lander will be able to charge its battery as the 14-day lunar day progresses enough for sunlight to fall on the panel.