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India’s Lunar Rover Concludes Its Surface Expedition; Data Under Scrutiny for Evidence of Ice Water

by Ethan Kim
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lunar exploration

India’s lunar rover has finalized its expedition across the moon’s terrain and entered a dormant state, less than a fortnight after its groundbreaking touchdown in the vicinity of the moon’s south pole, according to an announcement by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

“The rover has successfully completed its tasks and is currently in a safely docked position, entering sleep mode,” the ISRO stated late on Saturday, noting that the lunar daylight for that particular region has come to a close.

The scientific instruments aboard the rover have been deactivated, and the data gathered has been sent back to Earth via the lander, the statement clarified.

The mission’s Chandrayaan-3 lander and rover were designed to function for a singular lunar day, equivalent to 14 Earth days.

“As of now, the battery is fully charged. The solar panel is positioned to capture sunlight at the next anticipated sunrise on September 22, 2023. The receiver remains active, with expectations set for a successful reactivation for further assignments,” the announcement read.

The organization has yet to disclose any findings related to the rover’s investigation for indications of frozen water on the moon, a discovery that could aid future space missions by providing a potential source of potable water or rocket fuel.

Earlier in the week, ISRO indicated that the lunar rover confirmed the existence of sulfur, along with a variety of other elements. The rover’s laser-induced spectroscope also identified elements such as aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen, and silicon on the lunar surface.

The Indian Express reported that the electronics utilized in India’s moon mission are not engineered to withstand extremely low temperatures—below minus 120 degrees Celsius (minus 184 degrees Fahrenheit)—during lunar nights, which also span the length of 14 Earth days.

Pallava Bagla, a renowned science writer and co-author of works on India’s space endeavors, highlighted the rover’s limited battery capacity. “The collected data has been sent back to Earth for initial analysis by Indian scientists and subsequently for global scientific scrutiny,” he added.

Bagla also cautioned that the rover’s electronic components may not survive the frigid lunar temperatures, thereby affecting its potential reactivation. “The technology to develop electronic circuits resilient to the extreme cold conditions on the moon is not yet available in India,” he stated.

This mission marks a significant achievement for India, making it the fourth country—joining the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China—to successfully land on the moon. This accomplishment occurred after a 2019 failed attempt, further solidifying India’s position as a rising force in technology and space exploration. The mission aligns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aspirations to portray India as an emergent nation among global powers.

The mission was executed at an estimated budget of $75 million and follows closely on the heels of a failed lunar mission by Russia’s Luna-25, which spiraled into an uncontrollable orbit and eventually crashed. Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s state-controlled space corporation Roscosmos, ascribed the failure to a dearth of expertise following a long hiatus since the last Soviet lunar mission in 1976.

With a space program dating back to the 1960s, India has not only launched its own satellites but has also provided launch services for other countries. It successfully orbited a satellite around Mars in 2014 and is planning its inaugural mission to the International Space Station in collaboration with the United States for the upcoming year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission

What mission has India’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar rover recently completed?

The Chandrayaan-3 lunar rover has recently completed its surface exploration of the moon. After accomplishing its tasks, it has been placed in sleep mode.

What is the current status of the rover?

As of now, the rover has been put into a dormant state. Its scientific instruments are deactivated, and the data has been sent back to Earth for analysis. The solar panel is positioned to capture sunlight at the next anticipated lunar sunrise on September 22, 2023.

Has the Chandrayaan-3 mission discovered signs of frozen water on the moon?

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has not yet disclosed any findings related to the presence of frozen water on the moon.

What elements has the rover detected on the lunar surface?

Earlier in the week, ISRO reported that the lunar rover confirmed the existence of sulfur and detected several other elements, including aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen, and silicon.

What challenges are associated with the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s electronics?

The electronics used in India’s moon mission are not engineered to withstand extremely low temperatures below minus 120 degrees Celsius (minus 184 degrees Fahrenheit), which occur during lunar nights lasting 14 Earth days.

What countries have successfully landed rovers on the moon?

With the Chandrayaan-3 mission, India joins the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China as the only countries to have successfully landed rovers on the moon.

How does this mission align with India’s national objectives?

The successful completion of this mission aligns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aspirations to position India as an emergent nation in global space exploration and technology.

What was the estimated cost of the Chandrayaan-3 mission?

The mission was executed at an estimated budget of $75 million.

What are India’s future plans in space exploration?

India has a space program dating back to the 1960s and has successfully orbited a satellite around Mars in 2014. The country is also planning its first mission to the International Space Station in collaboration with the United States for the upcoming year.

How did Russia’s Luna-25 mission compare to India’s Chandrayaan-3?

Russia’s Luna-25 mission aimed for the same lunar region but failed, spiraling into an uncontrollable orbit and crashing. The failure was attributed to a lack of expertise due to a long hiatus in Russian lunar missions.

More about Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission

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