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Tenacious Tiny Titan: Japan's Moon Probe Sleeps Again After Lunar Night Hustle

Japan's intrepid lunar explorer, the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), nicknamed "Moon Sniper" for its pinpoint landing, has powered down once again after a successful second stint braving the frigid lunar night.

SLIM's story is one of both triumph and resilience. Landing in January as only the fifth nation to achieve a soft lunar touchdown, the lightweight probe wasn't so lucky with its initial orientation. A tilted landing meant its solar panels faced away from the sun, a critical miss for a solar-powered machine.

Enter the harsh lunar night, a two-week stretch where the Moon plunges into darkness and temperatures plummet to a bone-chilling -130 degrees Celsius (-200 degrees Fahrenheit). Experts predicted this would be the end of SLIM's mission. But defying the odds, the plucky probe came back to life in late February when the lunar day returned.

Not only did it survive, but it managed to transmit valuable new lunar images back to Earth. This feat repeated last week, showcasing SLIM's tenacity.

However, JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, announced on Monday that SLIM has been put back into sleep mode. This shutdown allows engineers to assess the health of the probe's instruments, particularly the Multi-band Camera (MBC) crucial for analyzing lunar rocks. While the MBC has shown some malfunctions, JAXA is optimistic and continues its careful evaluation.

The rocks around lunar craters hold the key to unlocking the Moon's formation story. Scientists believe some may contain material from the Moon's mantle, offering invaluable insights. The continued functionality of the MBC is therefore paramount to the mission's success.

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