India’s Moon Mission Fails to Revive Lander and Rover After Lunar Night

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Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft remains silent despite efforts to reestablish contact

India’s ambitious moon mission, Chandrayaan-3, has suffered a major setback as the lander and rover that touched down on the lunar south pole in August have failed to wake up after a long and cold lunar night. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been trying to reestablish communication with the Vikram lander and the Pragyan rover since Friday, when the sun rose on the moon, but has not received any signals so far.

The lander and rover were put in sleep mode on September 2 and 4, respectively, to protect their electrical components from the harsh conditions of the lunar night, which lasts for about 14 Earth days and sees temperatures drop to as low as -250 degrees Celsius. The spacecraft were expected to reawaken around September 22, when the next lunar day began, and resume their scientific exploration of the moon’s surface.

However, ISRO has not been able to confirm their wake-up condition and has expressed doubts about their survival. “Efforts have been made to establish communication with the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover to ascertain their wake-up condition. As of now, no signals have been received from them. Efforts to establish contact will continue,” ISRO said in a statement on Friday.

Chandrayaan-3 made history by landing near the moon’s south pole

Chandrayaan-3 was India’s third lunar mission and the first to attempt a soft landing near the moon’s south pole, a region that has not been explored by any other country. The mission was launched on July 22, 2023, and reached the moon’s orbit on August 20. On August 23, the Vikram lander, carrying the Pragyan rover in its belly, successfully separated from the orbiter and began its descent to the lunar surface.

The lander and rover touched down on a flat plain between two craters, about 600 km from the south pole, making India the fourth country to land on the moon, after the US, the former Soviet Union, and China. The landing was hailed as a historic achievement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who watched the event live from ISRO’s control centre in Bengaluru.

India’s Moon Mission Fails to Revive Lander

The Pragyan rover, which means “wisdom” in Sanskrit, rolled out of the lander on August 24 and began its journey on the moon. The rover was designed to travel up to 500 metres and operate for one lunar day, or 14 Earth days. It had six wheels, two cameras, and several scientific instruments to study the lunar soil, rocks, and minerals. It also carried a laser-induced breakdown spectroscope (LIBS), which could detect the presence of water and other elements on the moon.

The rover transmitted images and data back to Earth through the lander, which also had its own set of cameras and sensors. The lander and rover confirmed the presence of sulfur, iron, titanium, and oxygen on the moon, among other elements. The orbiter, which remains operational, also has eight instruments to map the lunar terrain and atmosphere.

Chandrayaan-3 mission was a major success despite the setback

Despite the failure to revive the lander and rover, ISRO has maintained that the Chandrayaan-3 mission was a major success and achieved its primary objectives. The mission was aimed at enhancing India’s scientific and technological capabilities, as well as advancing the global understanding of the moon.

ISRO said that the orbiter, which has a lifespan of one year, will continue to perform its functions and send valuable data to Earth. The orbiter has a high-resolution camera that can capture images of the moon with a resolution of 0.3 metres, the highest among any lunar mission so far. It also has a synthetic aperture radar that can map the moon’s surface and subsurface, and a dual frequency radio science experiment that can measure the moon’s gravity anomalies.

The mission also demonstrated India’s ability to execute a complex and challenging lunar landing, which only a few countries have accomplished. The mission also inspired millions of Indians, especially the young generation, to pursue careers in science and engineering.

ISRO said that it will continue to explore the moon and other celestial bodies in the future, and has already announced plans for Chandrayaan-4, which will aim to land on the far side of the moon. The agency also said that it will not give up on the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover, and will try to contact them until September 30, when the next lunar night begins. “If Vikram and Pragyan do not wake up, they will stay on the moon as India’s lunar ambassador,” ISRO said.

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