JAXA: Communication with lunar probe restored, observation restarted

Japan's space agency says it has successfully re-established communication with its lunar probe and has received new images from the moon's surface. Officials earlier shut down the spacecraft's power, hoping its solar panel would start generating electricity automatically.

Officials of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said in a social media post on Monday that the communication was restored on the previous night.

They said they immediately started scientific observations using a special camera on board the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM.

They also released an image of a rock on the lunar surface that officials have named "Toy Poodle." It is one of six rocks they had chosen for observation.

SLIM landed on the moon on January 20, making Japan the world's fifth country to achieve the feat.

The officials later said they successfully landed the probe with "pinpoint" accuracy. They said it touched down about 55 meters from its landing target. Probes sent by other countries to the moon in the past had landing zones of several kilometers.

But SLIM initially was not generating electricity because its solar array panel did not receive sunlight. They say the panel was facing westward after it landed, rather than facing upward as planned.

The officials said that was caused by a failure of one of its two main engines just before the touchdown.

They had made efforts to recover the probe's operations after once shutting off its power. They said SLIM would automatically be restarted if its solar battery begins generating power with sunlight coming from the west.

JAXA plans to continue research to look into the origin of the moon.