India’s commitment to space science has taken another giant leap forward. Chandrayaan-3’s recent achievements exemplify this drive, especially with the Pragyan rover making its illustrious journey across the Moon’s craters and plains.
ISRO, the nation’s esteemed space organization, proudly showcased a gripping visual of Pragyan’s first tread on the lunar domain. As the rover charted its course, it left behind a symbolic mark on the Moon – a tribute in the form of India’s emblem and the iconic ISRO logo. This timeless imprint is a reminder of India’s space ambitions and capabilities.
Table of Contents
Peeling back the layers of Chandrayaan-3’s Pragyan:
1. Structure and Movement
Weighing close to 27 kg and designed with six robust wheels, Pragyan’s pioneering rocker-bogie system ensures it cruises the lunar landscape effortlessly.
2. Navigational Metrics
With a leisurely movement pace of about 1 cm/s, Pragyan can span distances up to 500 meters, maintaining a bond with its counterpart, the Vikram lander.
3. Power Dynamics
Employing the abundant solar energy, Pragyan garners a power output of 50W from its onboard solar apparatus. In light of the lunar environment, ISRO has hinted at exploring nuclear energy avenues for prospective moon missions.
4. Lunar Resilience
Pragyan is built to withstand 14 Earth days, mirroring a single lunar day. This period tests the rover’s endurance, facing the Sun’s whims from scalding highs of 130°F (54°C) to chilly lows of -334°F (-203°C).
5. Scientific Endeavours
Pragyan’s core mission revolves around probing the lunar South Pole’s elemental spectrum. Its two payloads includes:
- APXS: Alpha-Particle X-Ray Spectrometer that uses alpha particles to study the soil. It will study elements such as magnesium, aluminum, silicon, potassium, calcium and iron.
- LIBS: LIBS is the laser induced Breakdown Spectroscope that uses lasers to analyze the soil. The laser is focused to form a plasma which atomizes and excites samples. This technology will provide valuable insights into the chemical and mineral makeup of the moon.
Significance of Lunar South Pole
- India has become the first nation in the world to land on the South Pole of the Moon. The nation’s Chandrayaan-3 mission made a soft landing on the lunar surface, Making a soft landing in that region of the moon is an incredibly challenging task. That’s because the lunar South Pole is home to the toughest terrains and low temperatures. Permanently shadowed craters in that region haven’t received sunlight for millions of years.
- Nation’s have tried to land on the South Pole but have met with failures. In April 2019, Israel’s Beresheet crashed on the moon, attempting to land near the South Pole. In September 2019, India’s Chandrayaan-2 crash-landed on the lunar South Pole. Then, in August 2023, Russia’s Luna-25, aiming for the South Pole, crashed into the moon. But India has scripted history by demonstrating a soft landing on the moon’s South Pole.
- There are many reasons why countries are in a race to land on the lunar South Pole. Scientists believe it hosts a vast reservoir of water ice in the shadowed craters. Future space exploration will greatly benefit from the presence of water. It can be transformed into materials like water for drinking, oxygen for air, and hydrogen for rocket fuel.
- Also, since the South Pole experiences extremely cold temperatures, anything trapped here would remain frozen in time without undergoing much change. Therefore, the rocks and soil in this area might include hints about the early solar system.
- The Moon’s South Pole may also contain volatiles such as methane and ammonia. These volatiles might possibly serve as a source of supplies for upcoming human exploration.
- The region is home to the South Pole-Aitken basin, the largest impact basin on moon. Understanding it will help us understand how our natural satellite formed and developed.
- And finally, the lunar South Pole also holds significance for Radio Astronomy. The part of the EM spectrum below ~30Mhz remains the only unexplored window in astronomy because of the significant radio interference of Earth. Numerical simulations show that to avoid this interference, the far side of Malapert Mountain near the lunar South Pole may be a promising site for radio astronomy.
- The Vikram lander will now perform science operations on the surface of the moon. The ChaSTE payload will measure the thermal conductivity and temperature of the surface, the ILSA payload will measure the seismicity around the landing site and the Langmuir Probe (LP) will estimate near-surface plasma density over time.
Following the trails of Chandrayaan-3, ISRO’s eyes are set on a stellar future with the Aditya L1 mission. Destined to be India’s maiden space-based solar observatory, Aditya L1 is geared to station itself at the L1 Lagrange Point, casting its gaze upon solar intricacies.
With Chandrayaan-3 scripting a defining chapter in India’s space journey, the countdown for Aditya L1’s revelations has commenced. Space, with all its wonders, awaits the next thrilling chapter from India.
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