Japan’s Moon lander still going after third lunar night

Japan's Smart Lander lunar probe reached the Moon on January 20, and has survived three lunar nights.

Japan's Smart Lander lunar probe reached the Moon on January 20, and has survived three lunar nights. Photo: JAXA via AP

Japan’s first Moon lander has survived a third freezing lunar night, the nation’s space agency said, after receiving an image from the device three months after it landed on the Moon.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said the lunar probe responded to a signal from Earth on Tuesday night, confirming it has survived another weeks-long lunar night.

Temperatures can fall to minus 170 degrees Celsius during a lunar night, and rise to about 100 degrees during a lunar day.

The probe, Smart Lander for Investing Moon, or SLIM, reached the lunar surface on January 20, making Japan the fifth country to successfully place a probe on the Moon.

SLIM landed the wrong way up with its solar panels initially unable to see the sun, and had to be turned off within hours, but powered on when the sun rose eight days later.

The lander, which was tasked with testing Japan’s pinpoint landing technology and collecting geological data and images, was not designed to survive lunar nights.

JAXA said on the social media platform X that SLIM’s key functions are still working despite repeated harsh cycles of temperature changes.

The agency said it plans to closely monitor the lander’s deterioration.

Scientists are hoping to find clues about the origin of the Moon by comparing the mineral compositions of moon rocks and those of Earth.

The message from SLIM came days after NASA restored contact with Voyager 1, the farthest space probe from Earth, which had been sending garbled data back to Earth for months.

A US lunar probe developed by a private space company announced termination of its operation a month after its February landing, while an Indian Moon lander failed to establish communication after touchdown in 2023.


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