India switched off its moon rover, the first craft to reach the lunar south pole after it completed its two-week assignment conducting experiments. The rover was “set into Sleep mode” as daylight at the location where the lander and rover landed near the lunar south pole came to an end, the country’s space agency said. But the rover’s batteries are fully charged, and its receiver is on, it added in a post on X, formerly Twitter, late on Saturday. “Hoping for a successful reawakening for another set of assignments!” the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) tweeted.
The rover’s primary mission was to search for signs of frozen water, which would have implications for future astronaut missions as a source of drinking water and rocket fuel. However, ISRO has not yet released any specifics regarding whether the rover found evidence of such a substance on the lunar surface.
In a series of videos posted to its Twitter account, ISRO showcased Pragyan’s impressive capabilities. In one video, a lander camera captured the rover as it rotated for a safe route on the lunar surface. A second video showed the rover’s laser-induced breakdown spectrometer, or LIBS, which detected several elements on the Moon, including aluminum, silicon, and calcium. LIBS works by firing a high-energy laser at the lunar surface, creating searing hot plasma. When the rover drives over the plasma, it detects radiation that emerges from individual elements in the plasma and can identify their presence on the surface of the Moon.
Despite hitting two of its three objectives, ISRO still has to complete the task of conducting more scientific experiments on the Moon. Putting the rover and lander to sleep will begin in the next few days as they aren’t designed to withstand frigid temperatures, which can reach less than -120 C on the Moon during the lunar night, which lasts 14 days on Earth.
Scientists hope to use the lander and rover to find a suitable site for collecting samples from the lunar surface. These are expected to provide valuable information about the Moon’s history, the Earth, and the inner solar system. The rover also has the potential to uncover new information about the possibility of life on the Moon.
India’s successful landing of a spacecraft on the Moon was a significant achievement that underscored the nation’s growing status as a space power. It dovetails with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desire to project an image of a rising India asserting its place among the global elite. However, the success of the Chandrayaan-3 mission was tempered by the realization that any discoveries on the Moon could be short-lived.