Japan's Moon lander back up and running on the lunar surface after faceplant landing

The face-plant Moon landing could have been a mission-ending moment for SLIM, but it wasn't. JAXA said the lander is back online and sending photos back to Earth of rock formations nicknamed "toy poodle" and "St. Bernard."

Japan's first robotic mission to the Moon continues to be the little lander that could, after landing on its nose and overcoming a power issue to resume operations on the Moon. 

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)'s Moon lander SLIM successfully touched down on the Moon on Jan. 20, making history for Japan as the fifth nation to land on the lunar surface, but the robot's solar cells were not generating power. 

Photos sent back from two probes deployed from the lander just before touchdown revealed the problem. SLIM appears to have landed on its nose instead of its landing legs.


The face-plant landing was due to one of the lander's two engines failing ahead of the touchdown, according to JAXA. This could have been a mission-ending moment, but it wasn't.

On Sunday, SLIM powered back up and started using its Multi-Band Camera (MBC) to send back photos from the Moon. JAXA has named several objects SLIM photographed on the lunar surface, including rock formations the agency calls "toy poodle" and "St. Bernard."

"Communication with SLIM was successfully established last night, and operations resumed," JAXA wrote. "Science observations were immediately started with the MBC, and we obtained (the) first light for the 10-band observation. This figure shows the "toy poodle" in the multi-band observation."

A NASA spacecraft orbiting the Moon spotted SLIM on the lunar surface over the weekend. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) sent back photos showing the tiny robot alone near the Theophilus Crater after the landing. 

JAXA said the LRO image helped confirm the precise landing zone, which was the mission's primary goal.