Antelope Valley Press

Japan says it may have clues on moon’s past

- By MARI YAMAGUCHI

TOKYO — An unmanned lunar spacecraft has captured and transmitte­d data analyzing 10 lunar rocks, a greater-than-expected achievemen­t that could help provide clues about the origin of the moon, a Japan space agency official said Wednesday.

For four days, the Smart Lander for Investigat­ing Moon, or SLIM — which landed on the moon last month — has used its multi-band spectral camera to study rock compositio­n, and worked on examining lunar rocks, said Japan Aerospace Exploratio­n Agency project manager Shinichiro Sakai.

The lunar mission is Japan’s first. The spacecraft made a historic precision touchdown on Jan. 20, though it landed the wrong way up, with its solar panels initially unable to see the sun and was turned off after a brief communicat­ion with Earth. But on the eighth day, it started working, allowing it to successful­ly reestablis­h communicat­ion with the command center at JAXA on Earth.

A black-and-white photo transmitte­d soon after SLIM was reactivate­d showed the bumpy lunar surface, including six rocks. The craft eventually obtained data from 10 rocks altogether, all of which have been given the names of dog breeds, such as “Akitainu,” “Beagle” and “Shibainu.”

“We are hoping that the rock analysis will lead us to the origin of the moon,” Sakai said. By comparing the mineral compositio­ns of moon rocks and those of Earth, they could find out if the rocks have common elements, he said. According to the “giant-impact” hypothesis, the moon is believed to have formed as a result of the Earth colliding with another planet, and a smaller mass spinning off of them.

The JAXA team expected SLIM to study and analyze only one rock, so having data on 10 rocks was a cause for celebratio­n, propelling the team to pursue studying the moon’s origins.

SLIM is currently “hibernatin­g” in another lunar night that will last till late February. It remains unknown if the probe and its spectrosco­pe will survive the severe cold night temperatur­es and be able to “wake up” once sunlight returns.

 ?? ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES ?? This Japanese moon explorer, after making a historic “pinpoint” lunar landing last month, has captured data from 10 lunar rocks, a far greater than expected work that could help find the clue to the origin of the moon, its project manager said Wednesday.
ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES This Japanese moon explorer, after making a historic “pinpoint” lunar landing last month, has captured data from 10 lunar rocks, a far greater than expected work that could help find the clue to the origin of the moon, its project manager said Wednesday.

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