A Sleeping Rover Makes Lunar Discoveries
A historic moment in India’s space exploration has unfolded as a rover landed on the south pole of the moon. Despite being in sleep mode, the Pragyan rover from the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft has made remarkable lunar discoveries.
Since its arrival on August 23, the rover entered sleep mode two weeks later due to the south pole entering a phase of prolonged darkness. However, even in this dormant state, it managed to detect seismic activity on the moon’s surface. This groundbreaking finding provides additional evidence of moonquakes, a phenomenon not observed since the Apollo lunar missions between 1969 and 1977.
Unveiling the Moon’s Secrets
Scientists have long speculated about the occurrence of moonquakes, attributing them to the moon’s hypothesized iron core and its mantle layer. The presence of ridges and faults on the moon’s surface suggests movement and collisions between mantle plates.
The Indian Space Research Organization’s Micro Electro Mechanical Systems played a crucial role in detecting this specific seismic activity. Unlike the previous Apollo missions, which used the Passive Seismic Experiment Package, this instrument has the advantage of continuous monitoring. The Apollo missions could only record 21 days of activity, whereas the Indian rover has been able to capture an extended period of seismic data.
It is worth noting that the moonquakes observed during the Apollo missions were occasionally caused by meteorite impacts. The data collected during that time revealed hundreds of meteorite hits.
Pragyan’s Mission and Surprising Discoveries
The Pragyan rover is scheduled to awaken during the next sunrise on September 22. Its primary objective is to search for signs of frozen water. However, during its sleep mode, it has already made some unexpected discoveries. The rover has detected the presence of aluminum, calcium, chromium, iron, titanium, manganese, silicon, and oxygen on the lunar surface.
India’s lunar exploration journey has not been without challenges. In 2019, a previous lunar mission ended in a crash. Just days before Pragyan’s successful landing, Russia also experienced a mission failure in the same area. Nevertheless, India has persevered and has now sent the Aditya-L1 rocket, which is set to orbit the sun after completing several revolutions around the Earth.
While India continues its lunar exploration, the United States remains the only country to have successfully landed a man on the moon. With plans to return in 2024 through the Artemis II mission and a moon landing scheduled for 2025 with the Artemis III mission, the quest for lunar exploration continues.
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