As the Sun rises over the lunar south pole on Wednesday, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is preparing to re-establish communication with its Chandrayaan-3 mission’s Vikram lander and Pragyan rover. The lunar duo has been in sleep mode for the past 15 days due to the lunar night but with the arrival of sunlight at the Shiv Shakti point – which Isro named after India’s astronaut Satish Dhawan on August 23 – their operational conditions are expected to improve significantly.
Isro’s lander and rover are solar-powered, so they can only operate during periods of sunlight. During the lunar night, temperatures are expected to plummet to less than -200 degrees Celsius. The lander and rover were put to sleep on September 4 after finishing their exploration of the Moon’s surface. They will remain dormant until the next lunar sunrise, expected on September 22.
As the solar-powered duo prepares to awaken, they can resume their in-situ experiments and continue to provide valuable insights into the Moon’s atmosphere, soil, and minerals. The data will have far-reaching implications for exploring and building a lunar base.
The lander’s laser retroreflector array is also expected to be active again once the Moon has returned to sunlight. The LRA will reflect the Sun’s light to the lander and rover and help Isro track their location on the lunar surface.
In addition to resuming the rover’s in-situ investigations, Isro aims to restart its remote sensing instrument to detect any ice deposits in the region near the lander. The rover will also use the Laser Induced Plasma Emission Spectroscopy instrument to take readings of the lunar atmosphere, which will help it understand its composition and behavior.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also decided to name the place where lander Vikram touched down on the Moon’s surface as Tiranga Point, after the national flag. The location is close to the lunar south pole, an area of scientific interest where it is believed that water ice could be trapped beneath the surface or stored in shadowy craters.
The rover will remain near the lander, and Isro hopes to wake it up at the same time as the next sunrise on the Moon, scheduled for September 22, to perform its final set of assignments. After that, the rover will stay on the lunar surface “as our country’s ambassador,” Isro said. It will be the first time an India-made rover has been sent to the Moon’s southern polar region. The rover was the icing on the cake for the successful Chandrayaan-3 mission. It is hoped that the mission’s success will inspire the next generation of scientists in India and abroad to follow their dream of a future in space exploration. The Chandrayaan-3 mission is considered a significant milestone for the Indian space program. Its flawless execution was a great triumph for Isro, which suffered several setbacks in its previous missions.