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Japan has revived a spacecraft that lost power shortly after making a historic lunar touchdown this month, allowing it to resume work to illuminate the moon's origin and composition.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) confirmed on Monday that it had made contact with the spacecraft, which now appears upside down on the lunar surface.
“Science observations immediately began with the Multi-Band Spectral Camera,” Zaxa wrote on social media.
Japan became the fifth country to land a spacecraft on the moon this month, after the Soviet Union, the United States, China and, most recently, India, but the feat was marred by power problems that threatened to derail the mission.
JAXA said the spacecraft, known as the Smart Lander for Lunar Exploration (SLIM), touched down on the lunar surface 55m east of its target landing site – a successful demonstration of its precision landing technology. 100m, compared to the tens of kilometers for previous lunar missions.
But one of Slim's two main engines likely failed at 50m altitude, resulting in the spacecraft landing with its engines up. The angle made it difficult for sunlight to reach its solar panels, and Slim did not operate manually after sending captured data and images back to Earth.
Five days after Japan's soft landing near the moon, US space agency NASA has announced its lunar reconnaissance orbiter. Points are slim Near the crater Theophilus while flying 80 km above the Moon's surface.
An official at Jaxa said the change in the direction of sunlight allowed the solar panels to recharge, but it was unclear how long the power would last. The original mission lasted only a few days.
Using a multi-band spectral camera, SLIM is designed to analyze the composition of rocks on the lunar surface, which could provide important clues about the moon's composition and origin.
The work, decades in development, was followed by a series of setbacks JapanSpace exploration programs. In March last year, the country's newest rocket, the H3, was ordered to self-destruct after an engine failure shortly after launch.
Private exploration company ispace's attempt to achieve the world's first commercial lunar landing failed in April.
Advances in Japan's space technology are closely followed by the United States and other allies as they seek closer cooperation to compete against China. Experts said Slim's “pinpoint landing” technology could be critical to future missions such as NASA's Artemis program.
The US space agency plans to land astronauts near the moon's south pole. Craters in the permanent shadow at the poles can hold large reservoirs of ice, offering great potential for scientific discovery, but presenting significant navigational problems for safe landings and operations.