Japan lands on Moon, but lander may have only hours to live
Japan has become the fifth nation to successfully land on the Moon, but the Champagne corks aren't popping. At 10:20 am EST, the SLIM lander touched down, but the solar panels failed to engage, leaving the craft with only a few hours of battery power.
Coming hard on the fiery end of America's Peregrine 1 lunar landing mission, JAXA's Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) mission garnered a good deal of attention. Not only was Japan making another attempt at a Moon landing, but it was attempting to do so specifically to test a new high-precision landing system that uses surface craters as navigation marks.
Normally, Moon landings require very large landing areas in the form of ellipses covering many square miles. SLIM is a stripped-down lander designed to land with an accuracy of 100 m (330 ft). For comparison, the Apollo 11 mission needed a landing ellipse 20 km (12 miles) long.
Small wonder that SLIM earned the nickname of Moon Sniper.
According to JAXA, the landing attempt began at 10:00 am EST with the landing 20 minutes later. The landing was what the space agency called a "minimum success" because it bounced on touchdown and the solar panels failed to come online. As a result, SLIM is operating solely on battery power and unless the malfunction can be rectified, the lander will die in a matter of hours.
The video below recaps the landing and the following press conference.