The Japanese space agency appears to have successfully restored power aboard the SLIM lunar module, after discovering a problem shortly after landing on the moon.
The Japanese space agency (JAXA) announced on Monday that the Japanese SLIM lunar module that landed on the moon on January 20 has “resumed operations,” indicating that it was possible to restore power on board.
“Last night we were able to establish contact with SLIM and resumed operations,” JAXA said on the social network X (formerly Twitter). “We immediately began scientific observations” using the rover’s onboard camera, JAXA said, which also released an image taken by the module showing a rock called “toy poodle” on lunar soil.
The fifth country on the moon
The SLIM (Intelligent Lunar Exploration Probe) module made a historic landing on the moon's surface on January 20, 55 meters away from its initial target, and with a very high degree of accuracy, making Japan the fifth country in the world to successfully land on a satellite. Earth after the United States, the Soviet Union, China and India.
But JAXA announced shortly after that SLIM could not use its solar panels, forcing it to cut off its power supply less than three hours after the moon landing to save its batteries. She said she hopes to restart SLIM when the sun's angle changes in its landing zone on the moon, allowing sunlight to reach its photovoltaic panels.
Salim fell into a small hole less than 300 meters in diameter called Shiuli. Before it was turned off, the machine was able to land its two miniature vehicles naturally, supposedly to analyze rocks coming from the moon's internal structure (the lunar mantle), which is still not well understood.
One of these two vehicles is a spherical probe called SORA-Q, which is barely larger than a tennis ball and is able to modify its shape to move on the surface of the moon. It is developed by Jaxa in partnership with Japanese gaming giant Takara Tomy.
More than fifty years after the first human step on the moon – which Americans took in 1969 – the Earth's natural satellite is once again the subject of a global race. The US Artemis program plans to return astronauts to the moon, a project that was recently postponed to September 2026, with a permanent base being built at the site in the long term. China has similar competing plans.
The first two attempts to land on the moon in Japan failed. In 2022, the JAXA probe, Omotenashi, aboard the US Artemis 1 mission, suffered a fatal battery failure shortly after being ejected into space.
Last year, a lander belonging to private Japanese startup ISpace crashed on the moon's surface, after missing the crucial step of a soft landing. Reaching the Moon remains a huge technological challenge, even for major space powers: the private American company Astrobotic, a NASA contractor, also failed at the beginning of January to land its first spacecraft on the Moon.