Historic Walk Accomplished, India's Moon Rover Takes a Nap

It's scheduled to wake up again on September 22
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 3, 2023 8:03 AM CDT
India's Moon Rover Completes Its First Mission, Takes a Nap
The Vikram lander as seen by the navigation camera on Pragyan Rover on Aug. 30, 2023. India’s moon rover has confirmed the presence of sulfur and detected several other elements on the surface near the lunar south pole a week after the country’s historic moon landing.   (Indian Space Research Organisation via AP)

India's moon rover has completed its walk on the lunar surface and been put into sleep mode less than two weeks after its historic landing near the lunar south pole, India's space mission said. "The rover completes its assignments. It is now safely parked and set into sleep mode," with daylight on that part of the moon coming to an end, the Indian Space Research Organization said in a statement late Saturday. The rover's payloads are turned off and the data it collected has been transmitted to the Earth via the lander, reports the AP. The Chandrayaan-3 lander and rover were expected to operate only for one lunar day, which is equal to 14 days on Earth.

"Currently, the battery is fully charged. The solar panel is oriented to receive the light at the next sunrise expected on September 22, 2023. The receiver is kept on. Hoping for a successful awakening for another set of assignments!" the statement said. There was no word on the outcome of the rover searches for signs of frozen water on the lunar surface that could help future astronaut missions, as a potential source of drinking water or to make rocket fuel. Earlier this week, the the space agency said the moon rover confirmed the presence of sulfur and detected several other elements. The rover's laser-induced spectroscope instrument also detected aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen, and silicon on the surface, it said.

The Indian Express newspaper said the electronics on board the moon mission are not designed to withstand very low temperatures, less than minus 184 degrees Fahrenheit, during the nighttime on the moon. The lunar night also extends for as long as 14 days on Earth. Pallava Bagla, a science writer and co-author of books on India's space exploration, said the rover has limited battery power. The data is back on Earth and will be analyzed by Indian scientists as a first look and then by the global community, he said. By sunrise on the moon, the rover may or may not wake up because the electronics die at such cold temperatures, Bagla said. "Making electronic circuits and components that can survive the deep cold temperature of the moon, that technology doesn't exist in India," he said.

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After a failed attempt to land on the moon in 2019, India last week joined the US, the Soviet Union, and China as only the fourth country to achieve this milestone. The successful mission showcases India's rising standing as a technology and space powerhouse and dovetails with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's desire to project an image of an ascendant country asserting its place among the global elite. The mission began more than a month ago at an estimated cost of $75 million. India's success came just days after Russia's Luna-25, which was aiming for the same lunar region, spun into an uncontrolled orbit and crashed. Active since the 1960s, India has launched satellites for itself and other countries, and successfully put one in orbit around Mars in 2014. India is planning its first mission to the International Space Station next year, in collaboration with the United States.

(More moon landings stories.)

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