Japan’s rolling and hopping lunar rovers send back images of the moon

The SLIM lander on the surface of the moon, in an image taken by a rolling rover

JAXA/Takara Tomy/Sony Group Corporation/Doshisha University

Japan’s moon lander has sent back its first images. The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) landed on the moon on 18 January, and now its operators at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have released some of the images that it sent back from the surface.

When SLIM landed, its solar panels were not oriented properly to face the sun, so it ran for a few hours on battery power before shutting down. The engineers at JAXA put it into sleep mode before it was completely out of battery in case it can be turned back on when the sun is in a better position in the sky to shine on the solar panels.

In those few hours of battery power, the lander took as many measurements as possible and sent them back to Earth, revealing the details of the surrounding area. But perhaps the most impressive measurements came from its small rovers, Lunar Excursion Vehicle 1 (LEV-1) and LEV-2. The spacecraft released them just before it landed, and they dropped to the surface and began trundling around, taking images of their own.

The picture above was taken by LEV-2, which is a sphere a little smaller than a tennis ball designed to roll along the ground without relying on wheels. It shows the SLIM spacecraft perched on the slope of Shioli crater on the lunar surface. LEV-1, which traverses the surface using a sort of hopping motion, carries a device that can send signals directly back to Earth. That means the rovers can continue exploring and sending information home despite the hibernation of the lander itself.


  • the moon/
  • space exploration


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