Japan's 'Moon Sniper' resurrected nearly 9 days after losing power, thanks to solar charge

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), is seen in this handout image taken by LEV-2 on the moon, released on January 25, 2024.
The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), taken by LEV-2 on the moon, released on January 25, 2024. (Image credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), TAKARA TOMY, Sony Group, Doshisha University /via REUTERS/File Photo)

Japan has re-established connection with its Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM) spacecraft, almost nine days after it touched down on the moon's surface and lost power.

"Communication with SLIM was successfully established last night, and operations resumed!" the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Jan. 28 at around 7:30 p.m. ET.

On Jan. 19, the spacecraft was descending toward its landing spot near the rim of Shioli crater when one of its two main thrusters failed, causing SLIM to topple on its nose. As a result, SLIM's solar panels were initially at the wrong angle and unable to charge, but late on Sunday, the probe started to generate electricity, likely due to a change in the direction of sunlight, Reuters reported.

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Nicknamed the "Moon Sniper," the spacecraft was designed using a new navigation system that enables precision landings, evidenced by SLIM's impressive accuracy when it touched down within 328 feet (100 meters) of its target despite its technological mishap — making Japan the fifth national space agency to land a spacecraft on the moon. During its descent, SLIM's navigational technology determined its location while cruising by comparing real-time images from its camera to satellite snapshots of the moon.

SLIM will now continue its mission to analyze the composition of olivine rocks — a common mineral in the lunar crust — using a multi-band spectral camera, which captures images beyond the wavelengths of light seen by the human eye. Before the spacecraft initially lost power, JAXA released images taken by the lander's camera of rocks in the surrounding area, then shared a new image of the "toy poodle" rock on the surface of the moon in its tweet last night.

While experts are not yet sure how long SLIM will remain operational, the agency has previously said that SLIM was not designed to survive a lunar night, the next of which begins on Feb. 1.

Kiley Price

Kiley Price is a former Live Science staff writer based in New York City. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Slate, Mongabay and more. She holds a bachelor's degree from Wake Forest University, where she studied biology and journalism, and is pursuing a master's degree at New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program.