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Chandrayaan-3: Pragyan rover’s ‘race against time now’. What it has seen on Moon so far

On Monday, the ISRO said Pragyan rover was commanded to retrace its path after it came across a crater metres ahead of its location on Moon.

It has been exactly a week since the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s rover ‘Pragyan’ soft landed on the south pole of the Moon. On Monday, the Indian Space Research Organisation said Pragyan was commanded to retrace its path after it came across a crater just metres ahead of its location on the lunar surface.

With less than 10 days remaining for the completion of one lunar day, Space Applications Centre (SAC) director Nilesh M Desai on Sunday said the Chandrayaan-3‘s Pragyan is in a “race against time” and that the ISRO scientists are working to cover a maximum distance of the uncharted south pole through the six-wheeled rover.

What ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 found over the last 7 days:

1. August 23: Just hours after the soft landing on the lunar surface, the ISRO shared first the image captured by Vikram’s camera “It shows a portion of Chandrayaan-3’s landing site. Seen also is a leg and its accompanying shadow. Chandrayaan-3 chose a relatively flat region on the lunar surface,” it said on X (formally Twitter). The ISRO also said a communication link was established between the lander and the space agency’s Mission Operations Complex (MOX) in Bengaluru. The MOX is located at the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC). The ISRO also released images from the Lander Horizontal Velocity Camera taken during the descent to the Moon’s surface.

2. August 24: In the morning, the Indian space agency informed that “India took a walk on the moon”, as Chandrayaan-3’s robotic rover rolled out of the lander and commenced mobility operations with all activities on schedule and all systems normal. It also said all the Lander Module(LM) payloads have been turned on. “All activities are on schedule. All systems are normal. Lander Module payloads ILSA, RAMBHA and ChaSTE are turned ON today. Rover mobility operations have commenced. SHAPE payload on the Propulsion Module was turned ON on Sunday,” it said in a post on X while giving an update in the same evening.

3. August 25: A video of the Pragyan rover rolling out of the Chandrayaan-3 Vikram lander and walking on the lunar surface was released by the ISRO. The ISRO released another video of how a two-segment ramp facilitated the roll-down of the Pragyan. It said a solar panel enabled the rover to generate power. The video also showed how the rapid deployment of the ramp and solar panel took place, prior to the rolldown of the rover.

4. In the same evening, the ISRO updated that the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s Pragyan rover has traversed a distance of about eight metres on the lunar surface, and its payloads have been turned on. All payloads on the propulsion module, lander module, and rover are performing nominally, the Bengaluru-headquartered national space agency said.

5. August 26: The ISRO said two of the three Chandrayaan-3 mission objectives have been achieved while the third — in-situ scientific experiments — is underway. It also said all the payloads of the mission are performing normally. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision to name the spot where Vikram lander made the soft landing as “Shiv Shakti Point” and the site where the Chandrayaan-2 lander crash-landed on the Moon’s surface in 2019 would be known as “Tiranga Point”. Also, August 23, the day the Chandrayaan-3 lander touched down on the lunar surface, would be celebrated as ‘National Space Day’, Modi said.

6. August 27: The ISRO released a graph of the temperature variation on the lunar surface and a senior scientist of the space agency expressed surprise over the high temperature recorded on the Moon. The national space agency said Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) payload onboard Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander measured the temperature profile of the lunar topsoil around the pole to understand the thermal behaviour of the Moon’s surface.

7. August 28: The space research organisation announced that it will launch the Aditya-L1 Solar Mission, the first space-based Indian observatory to study the Sun on September 2, 2023. The launch of the solar mission will take place on September 2, 2023, at 11:50 am from Sriharikota.

8. August 28: The Bengaluru-headquartered national space agency said Pragyan is now safely heading on a new path. The ISRO said on August 27 the rover came across a four-metre diameter crater which was three metres ahead of its location. “The rover was commanded to retrace the path,” it added, following which it is headed on a new path.

(With inputs from agencies)

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