India’s Chandrayaan-3 rover has just sent its first snapshots of the Moon, and they’re stunning! Launched by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on July 14th, the spacecraft successfully settled into lunar orbit on August 5th, which is a big win for India’s space dreams.
Now, here’s the thrilling part: Chandrayaan-3 is all set for an epic attempt to land on the Moon’s south pole come August 23. If successful, it will drop the mission’s lander, Vikram, and its cute little rover, Pragyan, onto the lunar terrain for some serious scientific detective work.
Pragyan plans to play lunar detective for about two weeks (which equals a day on the Moon). But like all good things, this too will come to an end; as night falls, the rover will nod off and conclude its mission.
What’s Pragyan looking for, you ask? Well, it’s on a quest to understand the Moon’s surface makeup, hunt for water ice, dig into the Moon’s history, and help our brainy scientists uncover some age-old lunar secrets. Given it can roll up to a distance of 1,600 feet, Pragyan has a good chunk of ground to cover.
The rover’s toolkit is impressive. It’s got an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) to analyze the chemical mix of the Moon’s surface, and a Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) to figure out the elements in the lunar dirt and rocks near its landing spot.
Fingers crossed for a smooth landing, as it would make India the fourth member of an exclusive club, alongside the US, the former Soviet Union, and China, to nail a soft lunar landing. We can’t forget Chandrayaan-2 from 2019; it was oh-so-close, but a tiny glitch caused a hiccup, resulting in a crash.
With a budget of just over $70 million (6 billion rupees) for Chandrayaan-3, the stakes are high, but the hope is even higher. A successful mission could give ISRO the boost it needs for even more ambitious space adventures in the future. Go, ISRO!