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Against All Odds, Japan’s Toppled Moon Lander Is Still Alive

Moon Miracle

In the wake of NASA's failed private Moon lander debacle, Japan's attempt is still alive and kicking.

In a post on X-formerly-Twitter, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed that SLIM — an acronym for "Smart Lander for Investigating Moon" — is still alive and transmitting signals after its incredible resurrection earlier this year.

"Last night, we received a response from #SLIM, confirming that the spacecraft made it through the lunar night for the second time!" the post reads. "Since the Sun was still high and the equipment was still hot, we only took some shots of the usual scenery with the navigation camera."

Launched in September, the SLIM mission seemed doomed after the lander's "20 minutes of terror" upon making Moonfall, which ultimately resulted in the craft parking itself nose-first on the lunar surface.

Despite that major setback, JAXA worked steadily to bring the lander back from the brink — but it was still shocking when it seemingly sprang back to life after more than a week of radio silence.

Skinny Legend

With Moon landers relying on solar power for energy, they have no choice but to power down during the two-week-long lunar night. As such, it's been pretty touch-and-go for SLIM since it came back to life at the end of January, but it has twice been woken up and directed to collect data by its Terran controllers.

At the beginning of March, however, JAXA warned as lunar night once again approached that SLIM might not wake up again — but that didn't mean the agency wasn't going to try.

"Although the probability of failure will increase due to repeated severe temperature cycles," a translation of a March 4 post reads, "SLIM plans to try [operations] again the next time the sun shines (in late March)."

With all that said, however, JAXA seems concerned by some of the more recent findings from SLIM's latest measurements.

"According to the acquired data, some temperature sensors and unused battery cells are starting to malfunction," the recent post reads, "but the majority of functions that survived the first lunar night was [maintained] even after the second lunar night!"

As this latest update indicates, it's clear that SLIM is, for all its upside-down-ness, faring way better on the Moon than, say, Odysseus, its privately-manufactured and publicly-funded American counterpart that was officially pronounced dead earlier this week.

Ever polite, the humans behind SLIM's X account did in late February congratulate Odysseus and its creators for a "successful soft landing on the Moon" — but if there ever was a time to gloat, it would be now.

More on lunar landers: Scientists Struggle to Explain Why Their Tall, Top-Heavy Moon Lander Fell Over