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  • Writer's pictureVoraka Magazine



Article Published on 23 Aug 2023 by Ambika Mehta |

India's lunar rover (Pragyan) has started its exploration of the Moon's surface, after making a historic moment by becoming the first to achieve a successful landing near the south pole.

The rover of Chandrayaan-3 descended from the lander's ramp, signifying that "India has set foot on the Moon!" according to the space agency's announcement. The Vikram lander executed a successful touchdown as scheduled on Wednesday evening. This accomplishment elevates India to an exclusive group of nations that have accomplished a gentle lunar landing, following the footsteps of the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China.

Photo: ISRO

Weighing 26 kilograms, the rover named Pragyaan (derived from the Sanskrit term for "wisdom") was transported to the Moon within the Vikram lander. Following the settling of the dust from the previous evening's landing, a section of Vikram's panels opened to deploy a ramp that facilitated Pragyaan's descent to the lunar terrain. The rover is now set to roam on the lunar landscape, investigating various rocks and craters while collecting essential data and capturing images. These findings will then be transmitted back to Earth for thorough analysis.

Pragyaan is equipped with two scientific instruments aimed at identifying lunar surface minerals and examining the chemical composition of the soil. Pragyaan's communication will be exclusively with the lander, which will relay the gathered information to the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter that continues to orbit the Moon. The orbiter will then transmit the data back to Earth for detailed examination.

According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the rover is designed to move at a pace of 1 centimeter per second. As it progresses, it will also leave behind the imprint of ISRO's logo and emblem, which are embossed on its six wheels, on the lunar surface.

Photo: ISRO

The landing synchronizes with the commencement of a lunar day, where one lunar day spans the equivalent of 28 Earth days. This means that the lander and rover will have access to 14 days of sunlight to recharge their batteries. However, they will cease functioning and go offline during the lunar night. It remains uncertain whether they will reactivate once the subsequent lunar day begins. Apart from the rover, the lander is equipped with various scientific instruments intended to explore the lunar surface, both above and below it.

A key focus of Chandrayaan-3 is to hunt water on the Moon. Scientists suggest that the huge craters within the south pole area, in perpetual shadow, potentially harbor ice deposits that could support future human habitation on the Moon. This ice could also serve as a propellant for spacecraft heading to distant destinations like Mars.

On Wednesday, the minutes leading up to the touchdown were filled with tension as the lander initiated its delicate descent. The lander's velocity was gradually reduced from 1.68 kilometers per second to nearly zero, allowing for a gentle landing on the moon's surface.

The historic moment triggered celebrations throughout the nation, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring that "India has now set foot on the Moon" and emphasizing that "we have achieved what no other country could."

pragyan rover
Photo: Roscosmos

The successful landing occurred mere days after Russia's Luna-25 spacecraft lost control and crashed into the Moon. This incident highlighted the challenging nature of the South Pole region's terrain, characterized by an uneven surface and numerous craters and boulders. India's second lunar mission, which aimed for a gentle landing in 2019, ended in failure as its lander and rover suffered damage. Fortunately, the orbiter managed to survive and persists in orbit around the Moon. It plays a vital role by helping the Vikram lander in transmitting images and data back to Earth for comprehensive analysis.

India isn't the sole player focusing on lunar exploration. A burgeoning worldwide fascination with the Moon is evident, as numerous other missions are slated to reach the lunar surface in the near future. Scientists say that there is still a considerable amount to learn about the Moon, often regarded as a gateway to the mysteries of deep space.


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