India’s space mission has announced that its moon rover, Pragyan, 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. The rover has collected and transmitted data to the Earth via the lander, Vikram, which is also in hibernation mode until the next sunrise on September 22, 2023.
Pragyan’s achievements and challenges
Pragyan, which means “wisdom” in Sanskrit, was deployed from Vikram on August 30, 2023, after a successful soft landing on the moon’s south pole region. The rover traversed a distance of about 500 meters on the lunar terrain, using its six wheels and cameras to navigate and avoid obstacles. It also used its laser-induced spectroscope instrument to detect various elements on the surface, such as sulfur, aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen and silicon.
The rover’s main objective was to search for signs of frozen water on the lunar surface, which could help future astronaut missions as a potential source of drinking water or to make rocket fuel. However, the rover faced several challenges during its operation, such as extreme temperature variations, dust storms and communication delays. The rover also had limited battery power and could only operate for one lunar day, which is equal to 14 days on Earth.
Vikram’s status and future plans
Vikram, which means “valor” in Sanskrit, was the lander module of India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, which was launched on July 22, 2023 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. The lander carried Pragyan and three scientific payloads to study the lunar surface and atmosphere. Vikram also had a retroreflector device provided by NASA to measure the precise distance between the Earth and the moon.
Vikram is currently in sleep mode, with its battery fully charged and its solar panel oriented to receive light at the next sunrise. The lander’s receiver is kept on, hoping for a successful awakening for another set of assignments. The lander is expected to resume its operations on September 22, 2023 and continue its mission for another lunar day.
India’s space agency, ISRO, has said that the data collected by Pragyan and Vikram will be analyzed by Indian scientists as a first look and then by the global community. The agency has also expressed its gratitude to all the people who supported and cheered for the mission. India became the first country to land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole, which scientists believe could hold vital reserves of frozen water. 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.