Indian Lander Reached Unexplored South Pole of the Moon. Here’s What They Found So Far
India become the fourth nation ever to successfully put a lander on the moon. Their mission is to explore the perpetually dark south pole of the moon where scientists believe ice could exist.
The ice could be incredibly useful for sustaining a base on the moon in the future, and for producing rocket fuel.
In an attempt to beat India to the lunar south pole, Russia launched a mission only days before, but their lander including its rover crashed into the surface of the moon after spinning out of control and was destroyed. The unmanned Luna-25 spacecraft would have been Russia’s first successful lunar mission in 47 years.
What Did India’s Lander Consist of?
Vikram is the name of the lander from the Chandrayaan-3 mission. The unmanned lander carried a six-wheeled rover named after the Sanskrit word for wisdom, Pragyaan.
This rover will carry out research around the south pole of the moon, collecting and analyzing samples and data. This will include seismic activity, soil and atmospheric content, and more.
The first attempt by the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) to land on the surface, Chandrayaan-2, was unsuccessful. However, the orbiter still remains from the Chandrayaan-2 mission and is being utilized by the Chandrayaan-3 to relay information to Earth.
What Did the Pragyaan Rover Find on the Moon?
The Pragyaan rover is only a week into its mission, but Isro says so far it’s discovered the presence of sulfur, manganese, titanium, iron, aluminum, calcium, chromium, silicon, and oxygen. The area that the rover will explore is enormous and it very well could discover ice during its mission.
On August 28th, the rover reached a 13-foot crater and has rerouted a new path around it. It travels at a careful and energy-efficient speed of 4 inches per second. This mitigates the risk of damage to the vehicle, namely shock from friction or impact to its sensitive electrical components.
The rover from Chandrayaan-3 is flying the Indian flag and has its wheels embossed with the logo of Isro so that the rover leaves Isro’s imprint in its tracks.
What this Means for India and the World
This landmark occasion marks two firsts—India’s first lunar landing, and the first successful landing on the rugged and treacherous terrain of the moon’s south pole.
In a statement from South Africa where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was attending the Brits Summit, he said:
“We have reached where no other country could. It's a joyous occasion.”
Along with Isro staff and citizens around the world, Modi watched a live stream of a simulation representing the actual movements of the lander.
People in India and all over the globe celebrated the occasion, which could be one of many successful missions to come. Next, India is planning a trip to the ISS (International Space Station) in 2024 in collaboration with the U.S.
This is a major event for space exploration. If ice is discovered, it could lead to the start of a colony on the moon and a launch point for further space exploration in the future.
Elon Musk has mentioned in interviews that he believes a base on the moon could be a necessary step in humankind becoming a multi-planetary race. In fact, SpaceX in conjunction with NASA already has a manned moon mission planned for 2025 called Artemis-3.
Additionally, NASA and SpaceX just completed their first manned trip together to the ISS only days after Chandrayaan-3.
The future of lunar and space exploration should be even more eventful and interesting in the coming years.