One of two engines powering a Japanese moon lander during itsJan. 19 suffered a malfunction of some sort just 160 feet above the lunar surface that sharply reduced its power, the Japanese space agency said Thursday.
The spacecraft touched down at a safe, lower-than-expected velocity, but it was moving too fast sideways because of the unbalanced thrust. As a result, the otherwise-healthy probe apparently tipped over on landing, leaving its solar cells, attached to the upper surface of the craft, pointed to the west, directly away from the sun.
Unable to generate electricity, the spacecraft had only the limited power available in its on-board battery.
After downloading stored images and collecting as much science and engineering data as possible, flight controllers sent commands to shut the probe down 37 minutes after landing, before the battery was completely drained. That should improve the chances it will eventually “wake up” as the 14-day lunar day-night cycle proceeds and the angle to the sun changes.
plans to launch its own commercial moon lander in mid February.