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Japan's SLIM moon responds after outlasting 'lunar night'

By Chris Benson
Japan's space agency said early Monday morning they have unexpectedly received communications from the SLIM moon lander after it survived a lunar night. Photo by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Japan's space agency said early Monday morning they have unexpectedly received communications from the SLIM moon lander after it survived a lunar night. Photo by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency said very early Monday they have regained communication with the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon exploration vehicle after nearly a month.

The Japanese space agency said on social media minutes after 12 a.m. local time that after sending a command to the machine, known as SLIM, a response had unexpectedly been received back.

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"Confirming that the spacecraft has made it through the lunar night and maintained communication capabilities," JAXA said.

SLIM completed its planned tasks on Jan. 31 and was in a state of dormancy due to the lunar night, which is a 14-day period of continuous light or darkness.

The machine -- also called "Moon Sniper" for its intended ability to have a precise landing -- also carries with it two small rovers and was not designed to survive the deeper colds of the moon's lunar night which can reach minus 130 degrees Celsius, or 266 degrees Fahrenheit.

Communications with the spacecraft were muted for "a short time" because it was still lunar midday on the moon -- which is where the moon sets at different intervals -- and "the temperature of the communication equipment was very high," JAXA added.

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JAXA said the temperature of some of SLIM's equipment had risen above 100 degrees Celsius as it had been exposed to sunlight, adding it would confirm its functionality after it cools down.

JAXA scientists are looking for evidence of material on the moon's surface that may have come from its mantle, a layer near the core. The space agency says preparations are underway for the machine to resume operations once its instrument temperatures have cooled down.

Japan landed on Jan. 20 joining the United States, China, Russia and India as one of five countries on earth to have made successful moon landings.

However, it landed upside down and lost power shortly after landing, but was brought back online on Jan. 29.

This comes after the recent and successful Odysseus moon lander mission by Intuitive Machines which became the first private company to land on the neighboring planet as a new era of space exploration continues.

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