NEW DELHI – India’s spacecraft has completed its lunar walk and entered sleep mode less than two weeks after its historic touchdown near the south pole of the moon, the Indian Space Mission has said.
“The vehicle has completed its missions. It is now safely parked and has entered sleep mode,” the Indian Space Research Organization said in a statement late Saturday, as daylight in that part of the moon was about to end.
The vehicle’s payloads have been stopped and the data it collected has been transmitted to Earth via the lander, the statement said.
The Chandrayaan-3 lander and rover were expected to operate for just one lunar day, the equivalent of 14 Earth days.
“Currently, the battery is fully charged. The solar panel is oriented to receive the light at the next sunrise expected on September 22, 2023. The receiver is being held. Hoping for a successful wake-up for another set of missions!” The statement said.
There has been no news of the results of the rover’s search for signs of frozen water on the lunar surface that could help in future astronaut missions, as a potential source of drinking water or for making rocket fuel.
The space agency said last week that the lunar rover had confirmed the presence of sulfur and detected several other elements. She added that the rover’s laser-induced spectroscopy instrument also detected aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen and silicon on the surface.
The Indian Express newspaper said that the electronics on board the Indian moon mission were not designed to withstand temperatures below -120 degrees Celsius (-184 Fahrenheit) during the night on the moon. The lunar night also extends up to 14 Earth days.
Pallava Bagla, a science writer and co-author of books on space exploration in India, said the rover’s battery power is limited.
He said the data has come back to earth and it will be analyzed by Indian scientists as a first look and then by the global community
By the time the sun rises on the moon, Bagla said, the rover may or may not wake up because electronics die in these cold temperatures.
“Making circuits and electronic components that can withstand the deep cold temperatures of the moon, this technology does not 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 to become only the fourth country to achieve the feat.
The successful mission demonstrates India’s rising status as a technological and space powerhouse and is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desire to project an image of a rising country that asserts its status among the global elite.
The mission began more than a month ago at an estimated cost of $75 million.
India’s success came just days after the Russian Luna 25 spacecraft, which was aiming for the same lunar region, spun out of control and crashed. This was supposed to be Russia’s first successful moon landing after a 47-year hiatus.
The head of Russia’s state-controlled space company Roscosmos attributed the failure to a lack of experience due to the long pause in lunar research that followed the last Soviet mission to the moon in 1976.
India has been active since the 1960s, launching satellites for itself and other countries, and succeeded in placing one in orbit around Mars in 2014. India plans its first mission to the International Space Station next year, in cooperation with the United States.