India’s moon rover completes assignments and is ‘parked’ until next sunrise

Data collected by the rover has been transmitted to Earth for analysis

India’s moon rover has completed its walk on the lunar surface and been put into sleep mode, less than two weeks after its historic landing near the south pole.

With daylight on that part of the moon coming to an end, the Indian Space Research Organisation said late on Saturday that the rover had completed its assignments, and “is now safely parked”.

The rover’s payloads are turned off and the data it collected has been transmitted to Earth, its statement added.

The Chandrayaan-3 lander and rover were expected to operate only for one lunar day, which is equal to 14 days on Earth.


The statement said: “Currently, the battery is fully charged. The solar panel is oriented to receive the light at the next sunrise expected on September 22nd, 2023. The receiver is kept on. Hoping for a successful awakening for another set of assignments.”

There was no word on the outcome of the rover’s search for signs of frozen water on the lunar surface that could help future astronaut missions, providing a potential source of drinking water or to make rocket fuel.

Earlier this week, the space agency said the moon rover confirmed the presence of sulphur and detected several other elements. The rover’s laser-induced spectroscope instrument also detected aluminium, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen and silicon on the surface, it said.

The Indian Express newspaper said the electronics on board the Indian moon mission are not designed to withstand very low temperatures, and it can be less than minus 120C during the nighttime on the moon. The lunar night extends for as long as 14 days on Earth.

Pallava Bagla, a science writer and co-author of books on India’s space exploration, said the rover has limited battery power.

The data is back on Earth and will be analysed by Indian scientists as a first look and then by the global community, he said

By sunrise on the moon, the rover may or may not wake up because the electronics die at such cold temperatures, Mr Bagla said.

“Making electronic circuits and components that can survive the deep cold temperature of the moon, that technology doesn’t exist in India,” he said.

After a failed attempt to land on the moon in 2019, India last week joined the United States, the Soviet Union and China as only the fourth country to achieve the milestone.

The successful mission showcases India’s rising standing as a technology and space powerhouse and dovetails with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desire to project an image of an ascendant country asserting its place among the global elite.

India’s success came just days after Russia’s Luna-25, which was aiming for the same lunar region, spun into an uncontrolled orbit and crashed. It had been intended to be the first successful Russian lunar landing after a gap of 47 years.

Russia’s head of the state-controlled space corporation Roscosmos attributed the failure to the lack of expertise due to the long break in lunar research that followed the last Soviet mission to the moon in 1976. - PA