The Japanese space agency has said it hopes to be able to restore power to its moon lander after it was “switched off” following a historic touchdown on Saturday.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said on Monday that it had switched off the vessel three hours after it landed to allow for a possible recovery of the craft when the sun hits its solar panels. It added that it hopes to be able to restore power to the probe, dubbed “Moon Sniper” for the craft’s precision landing capabilities.
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JAXA also claimed to have already received “lots of” data from the unmanned Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) mission.
Moon Sniper’s touchdown made Japan the fifth country to achieve a soft lunar landing. However, after the touchdown at 20 minutes past midnight on Saturday (15:20 GMT, Friday), JAXA could not confirm that the lightweight craft’s solar batteries were generating power.
However, it later said the craft was switched off to have sufficient power to be able to restart the craft when conditions suited.
“The battery was disconnected according to our procedures with 12 percent power remaining, in order to avoid a situation where the restart would be hampered,” it said.
“According to the telemetry data, SLIM’s solar cells are facing west. If sunlight hits the moon from the west in the future, we believe there’s a possibility of power generation, and we’re currently preparing for restoration,” the agency continued.
Japan follows the United States, Russia, China and India in reaching the moon, and is part of several new lunar missions launched by governments and private companies, 50 years after the first human moon landing.
Meanwhile, JAXA is carrying out a detailed analysis of data acquired during the landing, it said.
That will help determine whether the craft touched down within 100 metres (109 yards) of its intended landing spot.
“We were able to complete the transmission of technical and image data acquired during the descent and on the lunar surface before the power was switched off,” JAXA said.
“We’re relieved and beginning to get excited after confirming a lot of data has been obtained.”
The mission was aiming for a crater where the moon’s mantle, a deep inner layer, is believed to be exposed on the surface.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the landing was “very welcome news” but added he was aware that more “detailed analysis” on the solar cells was needed.
NASA chief Bill Nelson congratulated Japan on X, formerly Twitter, on “being the historic fifth country to land successfully on the moon”.
“We value our partnership in the cosmos and continued collaboration,” he added.