Hopes are fading that the Chandrayaan-3 lander and rover will reawaken after the long lunar night, as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) continues to attempt to establish contact.
In August, India became the fourth nation to touch down on the Moon, and the first to land near the lunar south pole. Since landing, the lander and rover have conducted experiments to measure the temperature at the landing site and analyze the composition of the lunar soil, stopping only briefly for a photoshoot.
During its initial planned 14-day mission, it detected sulfur, aluminum, calcium, iron, chromium, titanium, manganese, silicon, and oxygen. Sulfur is of particular interest to space-going nations, as it could potentially be used to make concrete. As well as this, the lander detected movement underneath the surface, including a possibly natural event.
Technically, it was “mission complete”. But ahead of the lunar night, which lasts 14 days, the rover was placed into sleep mode, with the hope that it could spring back into action with the sunrise a few weeks later. Unfortunately, the sun rose on the rover and lander on Friday, with no sign of activity so far.
“Efforts have been made to establish communication with the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover to ascertain their wake-up condition,” ISRO said in an update. “As of now, no signals have been received from them. Efforts to establish contact will continue.”
Surviving the night would be no small feat, with temperatures at the pole dropping to -200°C to -250°C (-328°F to -418°F), potentially damaging the instruments on board according to ISRO chief A.S. Kiran Kumar. With no contact as of Monday, he added that the “chances of reawakening are dimming with each passing hour.”
“Unless the transmitter on the lander comes on, we have no connectivity,” Kumar added, speaking to the BBC. “It has to tell us that it’s alive. Even if all other sub-systems work, we have no way of knowing that.”
Efforts will continue throughout the lunar day to establish contact. If it doesn’t wake up though, it has already achieved so much.
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