JAXA releases photo of SLIM lander in lunar faceplant

Mission a 'minimum' success because rovers deployed successfully

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has transmitted images of the Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM) to Earth.

The photograph was taken by part of SLIM's payload, the Lander-eye Viewfinder-2 (LEV-2) rover, also known as SORA-Q, and shows the probe on its head. LEV-2 used an image processing algorithm to select the highest quality images, JAXA stated.


SLIM's landing position. Credit: JAXA/Takara Tomy/Sony Group Corporation/Doshisha University

The image explains why SLIM's solar panels weren't producing any power after touching down last week as they are not in their intended position.

SLIM was equipped with vision-based navigation technology that allowed it to maneuver autonomously while descending in order to have a more precise landing. It used preloaded images of the Moon from the Kaguya lunar orbiter and matched them with its own real-time images through image processing algorithms.

One image previously revealed that a nozzle from one of the main engines detached. SLIM was forced to descend with only one main engine, a scenario that may have caused it to tip over.

JAXA tried to fix the problem before changing its focus to securing the extremely useful data that it had collected.

After downloading, the machine was switched off with just 12 percent battery remaining.

SLIM's two rovers, LEV-1 and LEV-2, managed to safely deploy from SLIM prior to landing.

JAXA celebrated LEV-1 and LEV-2 as Japan's first lunar surface exploration robots, the world's first completely autonomous robots to explore the Moon, and the world's first simultaneous lunar surface exploration by multiple robots. LEV-2 was also heralded as the smallest and lightest lunar surface exploration robot to date.

With all the victories among a major failure, JAXA has deemed the mission a "minimum" success.

While LEV-2 was the photographer, LEV-1 played its part receiving the images from LEV-2 and transmitting them to Earth. The endeavor proved that the communication between the two rovers was operating normally.

The space agency noted it was currently analyzing other data, including driving logs, which it plans to publish in the future. ®

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