NASA’s LRO Reveals Stunning Images of Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram Landing Site
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has recently captured some stunning images of the landing site of Vikram, the lander of India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission. The images show the lander and its companion, the Pragyan rover, in high resolution and detail.
Chandrayaan-3 was launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on July 14, 2023, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India. The mission consisted of a lunar orbiter, a lander and a rover, similar to those launched aboard Chandrayaan-2 in 2019. The mission aimed to explore the lunar south polar region, which holds scientific interest due to the presence of water ice and other potential resources.
The lander, named Vikram after the father of India’s space program, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, successfully touched down on the lunar surface on August 23, 2023, at 12:33 UTC. The landing site was located about 600 km from the lunar south pole, between Manzinus C and Simpelius N craters. The lander deployed the rover, named Pragyan, which means ‘wisdom’ in Sanskrit, shortly after landing. The rover was designed to move up to 500 meters from the lander and perform in-situ analysis of the lunar soil using its instruments.
The LRO, which has been orbiting the Moon since 2009, acquired an oblique view of the landing site four days later, on August 27. The images were taken by the LROC (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera), which consists of two narrow-angle cameras and a wide-angle camera. The images show the lander and the rover in a bright halo, which resulted from the rocket plume interacting with the fine-grained lunar soil. The images also show the tracks left by the rover as it moved around the landing site.
The LRO team shared the images with ISRO as part of their collaboration and cooperation in lunar exploration. The LRO team congratulated ISRO on their successful mission and expressed their interest in continuing to work together in the future.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission has achieved its primary objectives of demonstrating India’s capability to soft-land on the Moon and operate a rover on its surface. The mission has also contributed to the scientific understanding of the lunar south polar region and its potential for future exploration and utilization. The lander and the rover have completed one lunar day (about 14 Earth days) of operation and have now entered sleep mode until they are awakened by the next sunrise. All their payloads are also switched off to conserve power.
The LRO is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA’s headquarters in Washington. The LROC is managed and operated by Arizona State University. The LRO has collected a treasure trove of data with its seven powerful instruments, making an invaluable contribution to our knowledge about the Moon.