Japan’s SLIM moon probe did what Chandrayaan-3 couldn’t. It survived lunar night

Over a month after it made a spectacular landing on the moon’s surface, Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) moon lander did the unexpected: It survived the freezing lunar night before re-establishing communication with the Earth. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) took to X to relay the development. “Last night, a command was sent to #SLIM and a response was received, confirming that the spacecraft has made it through the lunar night and maintained communication capabilities.” 

However, the communication with SLIM was terminated soon after, the JAXA added. “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,” it added. 

JAXA had previously said the probe was not designed to survive a lunar night.

The development is considered a breakthrough as the Chandrayaan-3 lander and rover have so far failed to wake from hibernation after the two-week frosty lunar night. The ISRO had then said that efforts to establish contact would continue. Chandrayaan-3 landed near the lunar south pole on August 23, making India only the fourth nation in history to achieve a lunar landing, after the U.S., Russia and China. 

As for Japan’s SLIM, the spacecraft made a historic “pinpoint” touchdown on the moon on January 20, making Japan the fifth country

to put a probe on the moon. However, shortly after landing within 55 m (180 ft) of its target just south of the moon’s equator, SLIM ran out of power after tipping over. Its solar panels ended up at the wrong angle. However, the panels regained electricity after a week, thanks to a change in sunlight’s direction.

The SLIM lander went into hibernation on February 1 after it sent images taken on its navigation camera. The agency too confirmed the spacecraft had entered a dormant state as expected.

After Japan, the U.S.-based Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus too managed to land a craft on the moon’s surface, thereby becoming the first commercial firm to do so.