History written on the moon by the tiny wheels of the Pragyan rover today when it crawled 8 meters on the moon, making India the first country in the world to operate an uncrewed rover on the south polar region, and the third country to do it anywhere on the moon.
At 1:30 am IST on August 24, Pragyan slid down the guiderails of the Vikram lander. The ramp-down was captured by the Lander Imager Camera on the lander—a heartening video clip that shows the moving shadow of its wheels on the lunar surface. But it did not move—it opened its little solar panel sunwards to get light to charge its batteries.
All in order
“All planned Rover movements have been verified. The Rover has successfully traversed a distance of about 8 meters. Rover payloads LIBS and APXS are turned ON. All payloads on the propulsion module, lander module, and rover are performing nominally,” ISRO said on X (formerly, twitter) today.
This essentially fulfils the second objective of the Rs 615-crore Chandrayaan-3 mission—which is “to demonstrate Rover roving on the moon”. The first objective was to demonstrate soft-landing on the lunar surface; the third is to conduct in-situ scientific experiments.
It is the third objective that the rover, and its parent, the lander, will be busy with in the next 12 days.
The rover carries two instruments—the Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) and the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer. Both will perform different types of experiments to check out which elements the lunar soil is made of.
The rover and the lander will be active as long as the sun shines on them, which will be for the next 12 days. And then, when night engulfs that part of the moon, the temperatures drop to minus 230 degrees Celsius.
After 14 more days when it dawns on the moon again, will the rover and lander come alive again? They may, but you can’t bet on it.