NASA unveils images of Japan’s SLIM moon probe after landing success

NASA on Friday unveiled images taken by one of its satellites of Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon on the lunar surface after it succeeded in making a pinpoint landing.

The images, taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at an altitude of about 80 kilometers before and after the landing, show a slight change in reflectance around the lander due to engine exhaust sweeping the surface, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

Last Saturday, Japan became the fifth country to land a spacecraft on the Moon after the former Soviet Union, the United States, China and India.

The explorer touched down around 55 meters from its target site, accomplishing the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s mission to land it with unprecedented precision.

But after landing as planned at the site around the Shioli crater in a low-altitude region known as the “Sea of Nectar,” SLIM’s orientation was off, and it was unable to generate power as its built-in solar power panels were not properly facing the Sun.

JAXA said the unexpected orientation may have resulted from one of the two main engines losing thrust at an altitude of 50 meters above the surface, adding power generation could start once the west side of the Moon becomes exposed to sunlight.

SLIM managed to deploy a palm-sized robot named SORA-Q shortly before landing, and JAXA said Thursday it has successfully taken an image of SLIM tilting over on the Moon’s surface.

By Muhammad Umair