Image shows Japan's Moon vehicle landed upside down on lunar surface

Head-first drop may have prevented the vehicle's solar cells from working

Despite landing upside down, Japan's Moon vehicle is still sending data from the lunar surface. Photo: Jaxa
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A Moon vehicle developed by the Japanese space agency landed upside down on the lunar surface, new images have revealed.

The Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon, or Slim, was captured in an image on Thursday, taken by the LEV-2 robot, which had travelled to the lunar surface aboard the vehicle.

Japan became the fifth nation to complete a soft landing, but the lunar vehicle's solar cells were not working shortly after touchdown, likely due to incorrect orientation.

“The Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2 (LEV-2 / SORA-Q) has successfully taken an image of the Slim spacecraft on the Moon,” Jaxa, Japan's space agency, said on X.

“LEV-2 is the world’s first robot to conduct fully autonomous exploration on the lunar surface.”

Slim used precision-landing technology that allowed it to touch down close to the designated spot on the surface.

The lightweight probe was sent to the Moon so engineers could improve the technology for exploration missions.

Despite the solar cells not working, mission control in Japan is still receiving data. It is unclear how long the vehicle will continue to function.

Moon-landing vehicles cannot use parachutes to slow for a touchdown and instead rely on thrusters to brake and adjust their orientation to land softly on the surface.

Updated: January 25, 2024, 1:48 PM