Hope Fades for India’s Historic Moon Lander after It Fails to ‘Wake Up’
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Hope Fades for India’s Historic Moon Lander after It Fails to ‘Wake Up’

India’s moon lander and rover, which made a historic landing on the south pole of the moon, have not “woken up” after being put in sleep mode earlier this month to survive the freezing lunar night temperatures.

Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organization have not succeeded in reestablishing communication with the Vikram lander and the Pragyan rover, which were part of India’s pioneering Chandrayaan-3 mission.

After the spacecraft soft-landed on the little-explored lunar south pole on Aug. 23 — five days after a Russian spacecraft on an identical mission crashed — the rover spent 10 days traveling more than 100 meters on the lunar surface gathering scientific data.

Tasked with “the pursuit of lunar secrets” by the ISRO, the spacecraft transmitted images and scientific data back to Earth and confirmed the presence of sulfur, iron, titanium and oxygen on the moon.

Before the sun set on the moon Sept. 2, ISRO scientists switched the rover to sleep mode to hibernate and protect the spacecraft’s sensitive components from the freezing lunar night conditions. The lander was switched to sleep mode on Sept. 4.

A lunar day and night each lasts a little over 14 Earth days. During the lunar night, the temperature on the moon can drop between minus 200 degrees Celsius and minus 250 degrees Celsius.

After switching the lander and rover to sleep mode, ISRO said in a statement that the rover had completed its first set of assignments — Chandrayaan-3 mission’s primary goal — and they were confident the spacecraft could survive the extreme lunar night.

The ISRO said that after the spacecraft reawakened Friday, the sun would shine on its solar panels, and its batteries would recharge. The agency also said that if the spacecraft did not reawaken it would “forever stay there as India’s lunar ambassador.”

In a Friday post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the ISRO scientists explained their attempts to reawaken the robotic explorers.

“Efforts have been made to establish communication with the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover to ascertain their wake-up condition. As of now, no signals have been received from them. Efforts to establish contact will continue,” ISRO said, raising doubts about whether communication with the spacecraft would be reestablished and the mission’s scientific exploration of the lunar surface would be resumed.

In its latest update on Chandrayaan-3, ISRO said it would continue attempting to make contact with the spacecraft at least until the lunar night begins Oct. 6.

The Chandrayaan-3 mission made India the fourth country in the world to land on the moon, and the first to reach the south pole region. The achievement, hailed as “a victory cry of a new India” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sparked a feeling of national pride among millions of Indians, who watched the touchdown of the spacecraft live on television.

Source : Voa