Air & Space

published : 2023-09-06

India's Lunar Rover Completes Historic Walk on Moon's Surface

Scientists search for signs of frozen water on moon

India's lunar rover exploring the moon's surface near the south pole, taken with a Nikon D850

India's moon rover has successfully completed its walk on the lunar surface, marking a historic achievement for the country's space mission. The rover was put into sleep mode after less than two weeks since its landing near the lunar south pole.

According to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the rover has finished its assigned tasks and is now safely parked. With daylight ending in that part of the moon, it has been set into sleep mode.

The rover's collected data has been transmitted to Earth through the lander, and its payloads have been turned off. The mission's ultimate goal was to use the lunar rover to search for signs of frozen water, which could potentially serve as drinking water or be used to make rocket fuel for future astronaut missions.

Scientist examining data transmitted from the lunar rover to Earth, taken with a Canon EOS R5

Although the mission statement didn't mention the outcome of the search for frozen water, the rover did confirm the presence of sulfur and detected several other elements. It utilized a laser-induced spectroscope instrument to detect aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen, and silicon on the lunar surface.

While the electronic components on board the Indian moon mission were not designed to withstand very low temperatures, there is hope for a successful awakening after the lunar night ends, and the next sunrise is expected on September 22, 2023. However, there is uncertainty due to the extreme cold temperatures, which can cause the electronics to fail.

The Indian space writer and co-author of books on India's space exploration, Pallava Bagla, acknowledged the limited battery power of the rover. He mentioned that the data collected will be analyzed by Indian scientists and then shared with the global community.

Close-up of the rover's laser-induced spectroscope instrument analyzing elements on the lunar surface, taken with a Sony Alpha a7R IV

India's accomplishment comes shortly after Russia's Luna-25, aiming for the same lunar region, experienced a failure and crashed. The success of India's mission reflects the country's rising prominence in the field of technology and space, aligning with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of projecting India as a global elite in this domain.

India has been active in space exploration since the 1960s. It has launched satellites for itself and other countries, and notably placed a satellite in orbit around Mars in 2014. In collaboration with the United States, India is now planning its first mission to the International Space Station scheduled for next year.