A Japanese lunar explorer has begun functioning again and resumed its mission on the Moon aimed at unraveling its origins after a successful landing earlier this month, the country's space agency said Monday.

The built-in solar panels of the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, have likely started generating power after they failed to do so due to the panels not facing the Sun properly upon landing, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.

The agency has been communicating with the probe since Sunday night, and the explorer's multi-band camera has resumed taking pictures of the Moon's surface, with its operations expected to continue for several days, it said.

File photo shows Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, (top R) on the Moon surface, taken on Jan. 20, 2024, by the SORA-Q tiny vehicle detached from the lander.
(Copyright JAXA/Tomy Co./Sony Group Corp./Doshisha University)(Kyodo)

It is looking for a mineral called olivine originating from the Moon's mantle, a rocky inner layer that surrounds its core, the agency said, adding that the camera can scan and carry out an analysis of the olivine's composition.

Comparing the mineral with samples found on Earth and looking for similarities could provide evidence for the "giant-impact hypothesis," which suggests the Moon was formed by the Earth impacting with another planet some 4.6 billion years ago, according to JAXA.

Japan landed SLIM on Jan. 20, becoming the fifth country to achieve the feat after the former Soviet Union, the United States, China and India.

It landed around 55 meters from the target site, accomplishing a separate mission of conducting a pinpoint landing within 100 meters.

The explorer had a positioning accuracy of less than 10 meters, possibly within around 3 to 4, before it began conducting maneuvers during its descent to avoid obstacles on the lunar surface, JAXA said.

Previous Moon landers had an accuracy of within several to around a dozen kilometers, with operators opting to have them descend in areas conducive to easier touchdowns, according to the agency.

SLIM landed at around the Shioli crater in a low-altitude region known as the "Sea of Nectar," as planned, but its orientation was off, resulting in the solar panels facing west, away from the Sun.

As the solar panels did not work, it ran on battery power for several hours before it was eventually shut down. During its temporal run, it managed to take some images of the Moon's surface.

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