Japan’s SLIM lunar probe has reached the Moon, but it won’t survive long due to a problem with its solar battery.

Japan’s SLIM lunar probe has reached the Moon. Japan has become the fifth country to successfully land on the Moon, confirming that its SLIM lander survived its descent to the surface. However, the mission is likely to be short-lived. JAXA, the Japanese space agency, says the craft has problems with its solar panel and is unable to generate electricity. In its current state, the battery charge is designed for only a few hours of operation.

Based on how other sensors performed, JAXA said at an evening press conference that SLIM was able to achieve a soft landing. The spacecraft was able to contact Earth and receive commands, but is running on low battery power. It is not yet clear what exactly the problem is with the solar panel, other than the fact that it is not functioning.

There is a chance that the panels are simply not oriented right now to receive sunlight. Then, when the position of the Sun changes, charging can begin. However, JAXA says more time is needed to understand what happened. The two small rovers LEV-1 and LEV-2 that traveled with SLIM were able to successfully separate from it before landing. And so far they seem to be in working order.

JAXA notes that it is now focusing on maximizing the remaining SLIM operating time to obtain the maximum data from the landing. SLIM is also called the “Moon Sniper” due to its precision landing technology, which allowed the probe to be delivered within 100 meters of its target point in the Scioli Crater. The agency plans to hold another press conference next week to talk about the current status of the mission.

Japan's SLIM lunar probe has reached the Moon

Even though SLIM’s time appears to be coming to an end, the landing itself was an important milestone. Only four other countries have successfully reached the surface of the Moon: the United States, China, India and Russia. The latest American attempt at Peregrine Mission One, undertaken by a private company, ended in failure after the ship began leaking shortly after launch on January 8. He managed to survive for several days and even reach the orbit of the Moon, but there was no talk of a soft landing. Astrobotic has confirmed that Peregrine made a relatively controlled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean and completely burned up.

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