On August 23, the Chandrayaan-3 mission, India’s second attempt at landing on the Moon, was deemed successful after both Vikram Lander and Pragyan Rover were able to touchdown on the south pole of the Moon. With this, India also became the fourth nation to land on Moon, and the first country to reach its south pole. Just a few hours after the landing, the Pragyan rover made its way out of the lander and has been trundling across the region, exploring and conducting various experiments to understand it better. Most recently, the Pragyan rover has found Sulphur on the Moon, and it took the first-ever image of Vikram Lander as it sits on the lunar soil. Let us take a look at what Pragyan rover and Vikram Lander have done ever since landing there.
The south pole of the Moon is a special zone. This is the first time a mission has reached there and is conducting experiments. That means any new discovery will be historic and groundbreaking for the astronomy community. The first day after moving down the ramp, Pragyan had to undergo a series of tests to ensure that it was working properly and that it could be controlled remotely. Then began the investigation.
The first report came from Vikram Lander which found that the temperature on the surface of the Moon was much higher than what was previously expected. As per Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) payload, the surface temperature of the Moon in the polar region is around 70 degrees centigrade, whereas scientists had believed it to be somewhere around 20-30 degrees.
Pragyan rover finds Sulphur on Moon
Yesterday, a significant milestone was reached when the official X account of ISRO revealed that Pragyan was conducting an in-situ experiment. The post said, “Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) instrument onboard the Rover unambiguously confirms the presence of Sulphur (S) in the lunar surface near the south pole, through first-ever in-situ measurements”.
Additionally, Aluminum, Calcium, Iron, Chromium, Titanium, Magnesium, Silicon, and Oxygen were also found. While all of these elements were already known to be present on the Moon, their existence at the South Pole and their concentration can give us a much better idea about the origin and evolution of the Moon.
Vikram Lander’s first-ever picture on the Moon
On a lighter note, Pragyan has also clicked the first photo of the Vikram Lander on the Moon. ISRO posted the photo and said, “Pragyan Rover clicked an image of Vikram Lander this morning. The ‘image of the mission’ was taken by the Navigation Camera onboard the Rover (NavCam). NavCams for the Chandrayaan-3 Mission are developed by the Laboratory for Electro-Optics Systems (LEOS)”.
It should be noted that the entire Chandryaan-3 mission will go on for one lunar cycle, which is around 14 days. That means half of the mission is complete at this point. The reason for such a short mission is that Pragyan operates on solar energy and after this week, the region will not receive sunlight for a while and that is when the mission ends. ISRO has not dismissed the idea of waking the rover and the lander again in the future.