Soak up the sun: Japan’s Slim survives shady lunar landing – until night falls

Planet Business: Spain’s economic surge; the UK’s corruption ‘wake-up call’; and the petition to switch the extra leap year day to June 31st

Image of the week: Lunar nap

Japan’s moon lander, known as the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (Slim), has had a highly relatable January. It just about made it to the moon, but after suffering engine problems during its descent, it landed upside-down.

This was awkward as it meant its solar panels were angled away from the sun and its battery power was fast draining away. So, after just three hours on the moon and with just 12 per cent energy remaining, the people in charge of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) mission put Slim into hibernation.

But Slim didn’t stay shady for long. On Monday, the Japanese space agency re-established communication with the lander, which reactivated and got down to work. According to a Jaxa spokesman, this was “presumably because power generation resumed in its solar battery as it received sunlight”.

Alas for the information-collecting lander, lunar night – and permanent sleep – has now beckoned.


In numbers: Iberian glow-up

2.5 per cent

Expansion in Spanish gross domestic product (GDP) last year, fuelled by a surge in tourism and robust jobs market. The services-oriented Spanish economy’s performance helped the euro zone narrowly avoid a recession in the latter half of last year.

2.3 per cent

Portugal was another outperformer in 2023 and, like its neighbour, finished the year with a strong fourth quarter.

0.3 per cent

Economic contraction last year in Germany as its manufacturing-led economy, the biggest in the euro zone, succumbed to the global slowdown.

Getting to know: Christopher Snowdon

Christopher Snowdon is a “public wellbeing advocate and anti-winter activist”, according to his bio on social media site X. Translated, that means he’s the head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a British think-tank, and also a man with a petition. Snowdon’s highly amusing petition is that the “extra” day in a leap year should not be February 29th, but June 31st, because this would have positive psychological benefits.

“Why have an extra day in February (cold, dark) when we could have an extra day in June (lovely summer)?” he asks reasonably.

Then, just a smidge more optimistically, he adds that as 2024 is a leap year “we need to act quickly to instigate this progressive reform” and urges the UK to “take the lead” on this proposed calendar chaos, thereby giving the UN “four years to get its ducks in a row”. Fun times.

The list: Worsening perceptions

The State has ranked 11th on a list of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, meaning it has been judged to be the 11th least corrupt country worldwide. This marked a “statistically insignificant” slip from 10th the year before, while its score held firm at 77 out of 100. Somalia was ranked the most corrupt, Denmark the least. But which “high-ranking” European democracies recorded their lowest ever scores?

1. Poland: the previous Polish government disempowered the judiciary and eroded the rule out of law, leaving Poland with a score of just 54. New prime minister Donald Tusk has promised to undo the damage.

2. Sweden: the good news for Sweden is that its worst is still better than most, with its score of 82 putting it in joint sixth place.

3. Netherlands: likewise, the Dutch scored 79, making it the eighth least corrupt country.

4. Iceland: its lowest ever score of 72 meant Iceland had to settle for 19th place, with the fall blamed on a financial scandal dubbed “fishrot”.

5. UK: “Notably, the UK has experienced a six-point decrease over the past five years,” the report states. Its lowest score of 71 left it in joint 20th. This, said Transparency International UK, should be seen as a “wake-up call”.

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