NEW DELHI (AP) — The Indian lunar rover has completed its walk on the lunar surface and has entered sleep mode less than two weeks after its historic landing near the moon’s south pole, the Indian space mission said.
“The rover completes its missions. It is now safely parked and put into sleep mode,” as daylight on that part of the moon draws to a close, the Indian Space Research Organization said in a statement late Saturday.
The rover’s payloads have been turned off and the data collected has been sent to Earth via the lander, the statement said.
The lander and rover Chandrayaan-3 was expected to operate for just one Monday, which is equivalent to 14 days on Earth.
“The battery is currently fully charged. The solar panel is oriented to receive the light at the next sunrise, expected on September 22, 2023. The receiver will remain powered on. Hoping for a successful awakening for a new set of assignments!” said the statement.
There was no word on the outcome of the rover’s search for signs of frozen water on the lunar surface that could aid future astronaut missions, as a potential source of drinking water or to make rocket fuel.
Earlier this week, the space agency said the lunar rover confirmed the presence of sulfur and detected several other elements. The rover’s laser-induced spectroscope instrument also detected aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen and silicon on the surface, he said.
The Indian Express newspaper said the electronics aboard the Indian lunar mission are not designed to withstand very low temperatures, less than minus 120 degrees Celsius (minus 184 degrees Fahrenheit) during the night on the moon. The lunar night also lasts no less than 14 days on Earth.
Pallava Bagla, a science writer and co-author of books on Indian space exploration, said the rover’s battery capacity is limited.
The data is back on Earth and will be analyzed first by Indian scientists and then by the world community, he said
At sunrise on the moon, the rover may or may not wake up because its electronics die at such low temperatures, Bagla said.
“Making electronic circuits and components that can survive the deep cold temperature of the moon, that technology doesn’t 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 as only the fourth country to reach the milestone.
The successful mission showcases India’s growing position as a technology and space power and aligns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desire to paint a picture of an emerging country defending its place among the global elite.
The mission began just over a month ago and cost an estimated $75 million.
India’s success came just days after Russia’s Luna-25, targeting the same lunar area, spun into an uncontrolled orbit and crashed. It was intended to be the first successful Russian moon landing after a 47-year hiatus.
The Russian head of the state-controlled space company Roscosmos attributed the failure to the lack of expertise due to the long hiatus in lunar research after the last Soviet mission to the moon in 1976.
India has been active since the 1960s and has launched satellites for itself and other countries, successfully launching one into orbit around Mars in 2014. India is planning its first mission to the International Space Station next year, in partnership with the United States.