Japan’s Moon lander has sent back its first images of the lunar surface, showing a gray, rubble-covered world in incredible detail.
Beautiful as it is, this lonely view is where the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) sits upside down indefinitely.
The photos are bittersweet, captured shortly before the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was forced to switch off the uncrewed lander. As of now, it’s unclear whether it will switch back on.
The image is compiled from 257 monochrome, low-res photographs taken by the on board Multi-Band Camera (MBC). The image is incomplete because the camera stopped scanning.
SLIM was nicknamed the ‘Moon Sniper‘ as it had precision landing capabilities. But the craft unfortunately landed on its nose, which meant its solar panels weren’t able to generate power.
Around 3 hours after landing, JAXA made the tough decision to turn off the lander to conserve power, in the hopes that if the Sun hits SLIM’s solar panels in future, it’ll be ready to get up and restart operations.
Still, in that short period of time, SLIM was still able to capture some useful information, and the agency has now zoomed in and started identifying and nicknaming rocks of interest.
As you can see below, the rocks have been given adorable dog-themed names, like the appropriate SHIBAINU and Toy Poodle.
The MBC was also able to snap a shot of SLIM itself, stuck in its nose-down position.
The Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2 (LEV-2 / SORA-Q) has successfully taken an image of the #SLIM spacecraft on the Moon. LEV-2 is the world’s first robot to conduct fully autonomous exploration on the lunar surface. https://t.co/NOboD0ZJIr pic.twitter.com/mfuuceu2WA
— JAXA Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (@ISAS_JAXA_EN) January 25, 2024
The lander is currently situated on the slope of the Moon’s Shioli crater.
The good news is that SLIM’s two payloads, LEV-1 and LEV-2 were both deployed and were roving around the Moon before SLIM shut down.
LEV-2 is a shape-shifting rover that was partially developed by the toy company behind Transformers.
“Something we designed traveled all the way to the Moon and took that snapshot. I almost fell down when I saw it,” JAXA project manager Shinichiro Sakai told Mary Yamaguchi of The Associated Press.
“We demonstrated that we can land where we want,” he added. “We opened a door to a new era.”
If the Sun happens to hit SLIM’s solar panels again, the mission will fire back up and take a range of spectroscopic photos to help scientists identify the chemical composition of the lunar surface.