As the Chandrayaan-3 mission approaches its conclusion, excitement is building in the world of space exploration. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been diligently monitoring the progress of this historic mission, which aims to achieve a soft landing near the Moon’s south pole. Here’s the latest on what’s happening as the lunar night approaches.
Status of Vikram Lander and Pragyan Rover: With the primary mission objectives accomplished, ISRO scientists have taken precautionary measures for the lunar night. The ‘Pragyan’ rover, having completed its tasks, has been safely parked. Meanwhile, the Vikram lander, responsible for transferring critical data back to Earth, will be placed in sleep mode. The key challenge now is to ensure that these devices can withstand the extreme cold, with temperatures plummeting as low as -200 degrees Celsius.
Lunar Night Timeline: According to NASA’s Moon Tracker, the lunar sunset began on September 4, originating from the location where the Chandrayaan-3 lander is positioned, aptly named Shiv Shakti Point by India. This period of darkness will persist until September 6. Subsequently, the lunar sunrise is expected on September 20, as per NASA’s tracker. However, at the Moon’s south pole, the sunrise might be slightly delayed, anticipated around September 22.
Hope for a Successful Awakening: ISRO remains hopeful that the instruments on board the lander and rover will successfully recharge and reawaken after the lunar night. If all goes well, these devices can resume their scientific missions. Otherwise, they will remain as enduring symbols of India’s lunar exploration endeavors.
Achievements of Chandrayaan 3 Mission: Chandrayaan-3, launched on July 14, has achieved significant milestones during its journey to the Moon’s south pole. Here are some of the noteworthy accomplishments:
- Pragyan Rover’s Movement: Before entering sleep mode, the Pragyan rover covered over 100 meters of lunar terrain. It’s important to note that the rover’s communication range is limited to 500 meters from the Vikram lander.
- Discovery of Sulphur (S): The rover’s Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) instrument made a historic in-situ measurement by confirming the presence of Sulphur (S) in the lunar surface near the south pole. Additionally, several other elements, including Al, Ca, Fe, Cr, Ti, Mn, Si, and O, were detected.
- Plasma Environment Measurement: The Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere – Langmuir Probe (RAMBHA-LP) payload, on board Chandrayaan-3’s lander, conducted groundbreaking measurements of the lunar plasma environment near the south pole. Initial findings suggest a relatively sparse lunar plasma near the surface, which could improve future lunar mission communication.
- Lunar Seismic Activity: The Instrument for the Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) recorded the movements of the Rover and other payloads. It also detected an event on August 26, currently under investigation, which appears to be of natural origin.
- Thermal Behavior Study: The ChaSTE (Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment) instrument probed the lunar topsoil’s temperature profile around the pole. This marked the first such profile for the lunar south pole, contributing to ongoing research.
- Sulphur Confirmation: Another instrument on the rover, the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectroscope (APXS), confirmed the presence of Sulphur (S) in the region using a different technique. This discovery has sparked new theories about the source of Sulphur in the area.
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