NASA’s LRO Discovers Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram Lander on the Moon’s South Pole
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has made a remarkable discovery on the lunar surface. The spacecraft has detected the presence of Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander, which successfully landed near the Moon’s south pole on August 23, 2023
Chandrayaan-3 is India’s third mission to the Moon, following Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and Chandrayaan-2 in 2019. The mission consists of a lunar lander named Vikram and a lunar rover named Pragyan, similar to those launched aboard Chandrayaan-2. However, unlike Chandrayaan-2, which failed to soft-land on the Moon due to a loss of communication, Chandrayaan-3 achieved a historic feat by becoming the fourth country to successfully land on the Moon, and the first to do so near the region of the lunar south pole
The lunar south pole region holds particular interest for scientific exploration, as it is believed to contain large amounts of water ice in permanently shadowed craters. The presence of water on the Moon could have implications for future human and robotic missions, as well as for understanding the origin and evolution of the lunar environment.
Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander carried four scientific instruments to study the lunar surface and atmosphere, while Pragyan rover carried two instruments to analyze the chemical composition and mineralogy of the lunar soil. The lander also carried a laser retroreflector array (LRA) provided by NASA, which is a passive device that reflects laser beams from orbiting spacecraft. The LRA helps to measure the precise distance between the Earth and the Moon, as well as to test Einstein’s theory of general relativity
LRO is a NASA robotic spacecraft that has been orbiting the Moon since 2009, providing high-resolution images and data of the lunar terrain and environment. LRO has a camera system called LROC (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera), which consists of two narrow-angle cameras (NAC) and a wide-angle camera (WAC).
The NAC can capture images with a resolution of up to 0.5 meters per pixel, while the WAC can capture images with a resolution of up to 100 meters per pixel in seven different wavelengths.
On September 6, 2023, LRO flew over the landing site of Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander, located between Manzinus C and Simpelius N craters at 69.373°S 32.319°E. Using its NAC, LRO captured an oblique view of the lander, which appeared as a bright spot among the dark shadows cast by the surrounding terrain. The image also showed the rover tracks extending from the lander, indicating that Pragyan rover had deployed and moved around on the lunar surface.
NASA congratulated ISRO for its successful mission and praised LRO’s valuable data collection. NASA and ISRO have been collaborating on various aspects of lunar exploration, such as exchanging information on orbital maneuvers, sharing data from their respective instruments, and conducting joint experiments. NASA and ISRO hope to continue their partnership in future missions to advance scientific knowledge and human exploration of the Moon.