Armagh Obervatory and Planetarium comments as stricken Japanese moon mission lands on its nose

Dr Apostolos Christou, Research Astronomer at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, commenting as Japan’s Moon lander ended up on its nose upon its historic touchdown on the lunar surface, says, “Japan has become the newest member in a group of only five nations to have gently placed an object on the surface of the Moon.

“The SLIM spacecraft, which is short for Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon, reached the vicinity of our natural satellite on Christmas Day 2023 and, after several weeks of systems-checking and surface-mapping it soft-landed last Friday afternoon GMT.

“Though the lander safely reached the surface and communicated with ground stations, it did not behave as expected and ran out of power. Fortunately, the spacecraft managed to send data collected during the landing phase before going to sleep and it was announced this morning that SLIM had suffered an engine failure in the final stages of landing.

“The spacecraft’s guidance algorithms handled the rest of the landing with only one of two engines running, however, the unexpected loss of thrust caused it to land upside-down with the rocket nozzle pointing upwards and its power-generating solar cells pointed towards the west.

“Remarkably, the craft seems to be in a good condition and mission engineers now hope that, as the sun keeps moving westwards in the sky over the next few days, its light will once again fall on SLIM’s solar cells, allowing it to phone home and continue its exploits as the Moon’s newest resident.”

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