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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Chandrayaan-3: Why has India’s Moon Mission End Sooner?


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After making history on August 23 with Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) ambitious third moon mission, Chandrayaan-3 concluded it moon mission and put the Rover to sleep on Lunar surface.

ISRO said that two or the three missions of the Chandrayaan-3 were achieved. The ISRO said the first 2 missions — demonstration of a safe and soft landing on the lunar surface, and demonstration of rover movement on the moon — have been successful. Chandrayaan-3’s third mission, which is the in-situ scientific experiments on the moon was also achieved.

Pragyan’s payloads reportedly confirmed the presence of sulphur on the Moon’s south pole, and Vikram’s instruments have produced the first temperature-depth profile of the lunar surface on the south pole.

The Moon mission made India the fourth country to accomplish a landing on the lunar surface, and the first to reach the unexplored south pole of the moon.

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About four hours after the historic touchdown, the Pragyan rover rolled out of the Vikram lander. The lander and the rover began operations the day after the landing. In just a week, the payloads onboard Vikram and Pragyan have made groundbreaking scientific discoveries.

Both the spacecraft had a mission duration of 14 days. They transmitted data back to Earth through the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Deep Space Antenna Networks.

The whole mission’s primary objective was to achieve a soft landing on the moon, explore the lunar surface, and collect invaluable scientific data. The other major goals of Chandrayaan-3 was to look for water, as scientists believe that the huge craters in the south polar region hold ice that could support human habitation on the Moon in the future.

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Why has The Moon Mission Ended?
The Chandrayaan-3’s Moon mission came to an end due to the lunar night, a period when the surface of the moon is not exposed to the sun.

This phenomenon of lunar night lasts about 14 Earth days, equivalent to one lunar day. During this time, the whole south pole goes dark, making it impossible for the solar-powered Pragyan rover to operate.

What Is Lunar Night?
The lunar night happens because of the moon’s rotation, which lasts about 28 days on Earth. For half of this time, the lunar surface is exposed to the sun, while for the other half, it is in complete darkness. This cycle is almost similar to the pattern of daylight hours on Earth.

Despite several challenges on the lunar surface, Chandrayaan-3 has been doing significant researches on the Moon and it is great achievement for the country.

What happens to Vikram and Pragyan at the end of their mission?

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Will they return to Earth? Well, the answer is that both Vikram and Pragyan will be left on the lunar surface after their mission life is over, and decommissioned. The reason why they have a short mission life is that they generate power using solar energy.

“After the mission life is over, the lander and the rover will be left on the lunar surface and will be decommissioned. Since the lander and the rover rely on solar panels to generate power, the mission is restricted to only 14 days,” Debadatta Mishra, a former ISRO scientist, and co-founder of Erisha Space, a New Delhi-based space-tech firm, told ABP Live.

However, several spacecraft often outlive the duration they were originally designed to operate for. This means that Vikram and Pragyan can also be expected to function beyond their mission life of 14 days.

“Chandrayaan -3 is not designed to return to the earth. Vikram and Pragyan will remain on the lunar surface. If the lander and the rover remain functional (often they do), ISRO will continue collecting data about the lunar surface using them,” said Dr Sanat K Biswas, Assistant Professor, Space Systems Laboratory, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi (IIIT-Delhi).

Will  Vikram and Pragyan be considered space junk?
Since Vikram and Pragyan are not floating in Earth’s orbital space, and are lunar artefacts, they cannot be considered space junk.

“Space debris, often referred to as space junk, encompasses defunct human-made objects that linger in Earth’s orbit, posing a risk to active spacecraft. These objects include abandoned spacecraft, fragments from disintegration, and even minuscule particles resulting from various space activities. However, it’s important to clarify that objects left on the lunar surface, like Vikram and Pragyan, do not contribute to the space junk dilemma,” said Manish Purohit, a former ISRO scientist who was involved in the Chandrayaan-2 and Mangalyaan mission.

Contributors, Radifah Kabir, Manmath Nayak, India.com, google.

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