Japan's SLIM unexpectedly wakes up on Moon after month-long nap

How's that for resilient?

Against almost astronomical odds, Japan's Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) has reestablished communication with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The Moon lander arrived on the lunar surface in January. Unfortunately, it faceplanted, leaving its solar panels in a suboptimal position. It was shut down after a few hours of operation to conserve power.

Scientists were briefly able to power it back up a couple of weeks later and transmit data – including pictures of the Moon – once the sun shone from the right direction.

SLIM has hibernated ever since. During that time, the area where SLIM landed has experienced a huge drop in temperature as Lunar night fell, and lasted the equivalent of two Earth weeks.

On Monday, JAXA sent a command to SLIM, which rather unexpectedly responded.

"Communication with #SLIM was terminated after a short time, as it was still lunar midday and the temperature of the communication equipment was very high. Preparations are being made to resume operations when instrument temperatures have sufficiently cooled," the agency confirmed.

The Moon lander's anthropomorphized Twitter/X account detailed that equipment temperatures exceeded 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit). "I didn't expect temperatures to be this high, but it's amazing that space electronics still work!" exclaimed the lander, adding that it was shutting down because if it continued to communicate, it would get even hotter.

Among the data sent by SLIM before it was shut back down is an image of the Moon's surface snapped by the mission's navigation camera.

Despite not going exactly to plan, SLIM is considered a success – it met its mission objectives of a precision landing (sort of) and deployment of rovers.

JAXA director general Hitoshi Kuninaka originally rated the mission's success a "60" – presumably out of 100.

The craft gave congratulatory shoutout on Monday to a fellow lunar lander in similar positional circumstances, Odysseus. The US spacecraft tripped and fell on (presumably) a rock when it landed on the Moon late last week.

Despite its misfortune, Odysseus's maker Intuitive Machines revealed its scientific payloads are still functioning. As promised, the lander has sent images of its environment back Earth-side. ®

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