Japan’s “Moon Sniper” rover on Monday regained power and has woken up on the Moon, a surprise turnaround for the country’s historic space mission after its successful “pinpoint” landing on the lunar surface more than a week was marred by technical challenges and forced into hibernation.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed it had successfully established communication with the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) spacecraft on the surface of the Moon.
The surprise announcement comes days after Japan became only the fifth country to successfully put a spacecraft on the Moon, where officials powered it down after discovering its upside-down position meant it was probably unable to generate solar power.
Upon SLIM’s revival, JAXA said “science observations were immediately started.”
The rover has already sent back new images, JAXA said, sharing a shot of the lunar surface captured by the lander’s multiband spectroscopic camera.
JAXA said the image showed a rock near the lander that it has nicknamed “toy poodle.”
Japanese scientists have identified rocks of interest on the Moon and given them dog-themed names. JAXA said the canine names are intended to convey the relative sizes of rocks easily. Names given include famous Japanese breeds like Shiba Inu (written on JAXA’s figure as “SHIBAINU”), Akita Inu (“AKITAINU”) and Kai Ken (“KAIKEN”), as well as “St. Bernard,” “Bulldog” and “Toy Poodle.”
Japan successfully landed SLIM on the Moon 10 days ago and it has been hailed as a historic achievement on multiple fronts. Japan is one of only five states—alongside the U.S., the Soviet Union, China and India—to achieve a soft touchdown on the Moon, where the spacecraft is not severely damaged or destroyed upon landing. The landing also marked the debut of a new, precision landing technology that Japanese officials have said will mean a new era of space travel. JAXA said the probe achieved a “pinpoint” landing within 55 meters of its target, a significant departure from zones normally stretching to kilometers on account of tricky terrain, the lack of atmosphere and technical challenges. Before the launch, JAXA said its success would mark a change from “landing where we can” to “landing where we want.”
It’s not clear for how long SLIM will be able to operate on the Moon and JAXA have not set a rigid end date for the mission. The lander was initially powered down after scientists discovered it was unable to generate power, likely due to the angle of its solar panels. JAXA has previously said the rover is not designed to survive a lunar night, a roughly two-week long period where the Moon’s surface is not exposed to light from the Sun. The next lunar night is set to begin on Thursday.
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