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SLIM survives its second lunar night, re-establishes contact

SLIM's view after surviving its 2nd night on the Moon
Click for original image.

According to Japan’s space agency JAXA, the SLIM lunar lander has successfully survived its long night on the Moon, re-establishiing contact with ground controllers yesterday.

Last night, we received a response from #SLIM, confirming that the spacecraft made it through the lunar night for the second time! Since the sun was still high and the equipment was still hot, we only took some shots of the usual scenery with the navigation camera

One of those pictures is to the right, reduced slightly to post here. It looks west across the floor of Shioli Crater, with the far rim about a thousand feet away. The picture is identical to previous images, tilted because the spacecraft landed on its side and has limited scientific capabilities, being primarily an engineering test mission.

That this engineering test has now survived two lunar nights speaks well for its design. It tells us that future Japanese lunar landers (and rovers) will have a good chance of surviving for a long time on the Moon.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Edward

    Curious Droid has some thoughts on why it is so hard for us to land on the Moon, despite having done so several times half a century ago:
    “Why is it Still So Hard to Land on the Moon?” (16 minutes)

  • Edward: He celebrates today’s complexity as if it is all good, when another perspective could be that it adds variables that makes things much harder.

  • Edward

    it adds variables that makes things much harder.

    Do you mean, to use Paul Shillito’s analogy with cars from the 1960s to the cars of today, that we once could repair our own cars but now can hardly find the dip stick? Or that repairs used to be inexpensive but today cost close to a month’s rent?

    Shillito’s conclusion, however, was: “So in answer to the question, why is it so difficult to land on the Moon, it is because we have simply left for a long time and we have to start again to catch up on the fifty-year gap. If we had continued with the Moon missions after Apollo, the changes would have been more gradual as new tech became available.”

    We most likely would have tested the new tech along with the existing, working tech, and fewer problems would have come up. Newer technologies have their advantages, otherwise we would not employ them, but there are some disadvantages that also come with them. For example, we solved the problem of road apples in the streets (horse stuff everywhere) along with the smell and the fear of tetanus, but now we fear the exhaust from cars is bringing on the next Ice Age — er — catastrophic global warming — or rather — climate change, which is a real thing (“this time for sure!” — Bullwinkle Moose).

    Shillito points out some advantages to advancing the tech and making things more complex. We have built space stations — even complex ones — sent probes to the outer planets and into the Sun’s corona, orbited telescopes with very high resolution and ability to see far distances (farther back in time — yes, we have time machines), and we have landed small rovers on Mars with simple landings and large ones with complex landings. Plus, we have reusable boosters, reducing the cost and greatly increasing the launch cadence (so far this year more than half of all launches and far more than half the mass lifted to orbit have been on these inexpensive, reusable, high cadence launch vehicles). The tech may be expensive, but it is reducing the overall costs and increasing the overall capabilities.

    Well, maybe not in cars.

  • Edward: A very long time ago I learned the value of the motto, “Keep it simple, stupid.” That doesn’t mean you reject all new technology or concepts, it means you apply thought before jumping in wildly. Sometimes that new technology creates more problems than it solves, while driving up costs and increasing complexity. Musk’s version of this same perspective is his line, “The best part is no part.”

    I will tell a story. I have been a cave cartographer since the 1980s, producing many maps of very large cave systems, ranging in size from one to eight miles in length. In doing those maps (and finishing them and getting them published) I used pencil and ink to draw everything. Only when it came time to add text would I get the map scanned to work digitally.

    Since the 2000s. I can’t tell you the number of cavers (almost all of whom were engineers) who insisted I could do it better and faster if I did everything digitally, using software. I would tell them that no, that though the technology had great potential and was cool, it simply wasn’t that good, and would simply either slow me down, or force me to produce sub-quality maps.

    These people repeatedly scoffed at me, but meanwhile their digital maps remained unfinished, and I continued to finish many very large maps, the hardest to do. As computers and software improved, I would incrementally shift more tasks to the computer. Even so, even now I think it is still faster to draw the map by pencil first, than ink it later.

    There is another aspect of this that hinges on software. Some might be able to come close now to matching my speed, but based on the modern digital maps I see, they simply don’t look as good. Digital maps all look the same. If I was to put three such maps before you made by three different people, I doubt you could tell them apart. None have the individualistic style that a person will bring to it.

    The work of past cartographers however is clearly recognizable. Anyone who looks at one of my maps and has seen my other work will instantly know my style, and be able to guess it is my work. The work of these past cartographers have a feel for art and beauty, put in by the hand of the person who drew it.

    Computer software can’t do that.

    We should all think about this when we read about how wonderful AI is. Because it isn’t.

  • Edward

    We should all think about this when we read about how wonderful AI is. Because it isn’t.?”

    Well, artificial intelligence isn’t smart enough to not help students cheat on their term papers or not help scam artists. Despite the hype, it still only does curve fitting.

    I think that Shillito’s conclusion is still valid. Had we been adding new tech over the past 50 years, what is being done now would not be suddenly new. We learned to land on Mars a little at a time, adding new tech as it was needed. No longer do we land on bouncing balloons, no longer do we have seven minutes of terror. The seven minutes for Curiosity was because there was such a jump in tech that they could not be sure it would work. But it did, and now we are confident that we can land heavy payloads and landers on Mars.

    Your comparison of the current attempts to land on the Moon with your friends who thought the new software would reduce their own labor is analogous. Your friends jumped in, yet you tested it and found it wanting. Had we continued lunar missions, we would have tested the new tech and discovered which were not yet ready for prime time and which were rock-star quality.

    One reason to use new technologies is to land in more interesting locations on the Moon. If we only have methods that cannot avoid rocks and borders, then we are severely limited in our choice of landing sites. If we are not going to improve and advance, then what is the point?

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