Chandrayaan 3: Lunar night nears 'Shiv Shakti' Point. What will happen next?

Sep 04, 2023 10:22 AM IST

Chandrayaan 3 nears conclusion as lunar night approaches; rover sleep mode is activated. Lunar experiments were conducted successfully.

Chandrayaan-3, the world's first mission to make a soft landing near the Moon's south pole, is nearing its conclusion as the lunar night approaches. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has already declared that the ‘Pragyan’ rover has been “safely parked” after completing its operations. The Vikram lander, which is transferring the data to the ground, will also be placed in sleep mode.

Rollout of rover of Isro's Chandrayaan-3 from the lander to the lunar surface, as observed by Lander Imager Camera. (PTI)
Rollout of rover of Isro's Chandrayaan-3 from the lander to the lunar surface, as observed by Lander Imager Camera. (PTI)

What will happen to Vikram lander, Pragyan rover?

Although the mission objective is complete, ISRO scientists expect the devices to recharge, provided they can withstand the instruments freezing cold, which can plummet as low as -200 degrees Celsius.

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According to NASA's Moon Tracker, the lunar sunset commenced on September 4, starting from the location where Chandrayaan-3's lander is situated, which is named Shiv Shakti Point by India, and will extend until September 6. The next lunar sunrise is projected for September 20, according to NASA's tracker, but this may occur slightly later at the south pole, expected on September 22.

“Hoping for a successful awakening for another set of assignments! Else, it will forever stay there as India's lunar ambassador,” ISRO has said.

What has Chandrayaan 3 mission accomplished thus far?

Launched on July 14 as the fourth operational flight of the LVM3 rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Station in Andhra Pradesh's Sriharikota, India's lunar mission successfully landed on the lunar surface after a spaceflight of over a month on August 23, well within the intended landing site. During its operational period, it conducted several lunar experiments.

1) Before activating the Pragyan rover's sleep mode, the ISRO reported that it had traversed over 100 metres. The rover can only venture up to 500 meters from the Vikram lander before losing communication.

2) The Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) instrument onboard the rover definitively confirmed the presence of Sulphur (S) in the lunar surface near the south pole, marking a historic in-situ measurement. Additionally, Al, Ca, Fe, Cr, Ti, Mn, Si, and O were detected.

3) The Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere - Langmuir Probe (RAMBHA-LP) payload onboard Chandrayaan-3 Lander conducted groundbreaking measurements of the near-surface lunar plasma environment over the south polar region. Initial assessments indicate that the plasma near the lunar surface is relatively sparse. These quantitative measurements hold the potential to mitigate the interference that Lunar plasma introduces into radio wave communication and contribute to enhanced designs for future lunar missions.

4) The Instrument for the Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) payload on Chandrayaan 3 Lander, the first Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) technology-based instrument on the moon, recorded the movements of the Rover and other payloads. Additionally, it recorded an event on August 26, which ISRO said, “appears to be of natural origin” and is currently under investigation.

5) The ChaSTE (Chandra's Surface Thermophysical Experiment) instrument measured the temperature profile of the lunar topsoil around the pole to understand the thermal behaviour of the moon's surface. Equipped with a controlled penetration mechanism capable of reaching a depth of 10 cm beneath the surface and fitted with 10 individual temperature sensors, the probe generated a temperature variation graph of the lunar surface/near-surface at various depths during its penetration. This marked the first such profile for the lunar south pole, and detailed observations are ongoing.

6) Another instrument onboard the rover confirmed the presence of Sulphur (S) in the region using a different technique. The Alpha Particle X-ray Spectroscope (APXS) detected S, along with other minor elements. This discovery prompts scientists to develop new theories regarding the source of Sulphur (S) in the area, such as intrinsic, volcanic, meteoritic, and more.

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