Fri. Sep 22nd, 2023
    Will India’s Sleeping Moon Explorers Wake Up in the Harsh Lunar Cold?

    India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission made history with the successful landing of its lander, Vikram, and rover, Pragyan, on the moon’s south pole. However, a crucial missing component could determine whether these robotic explorers will wake up from their sleep when the sun shines on them at the end of the lunar night.

    While temperatures near the moon’s poles can drop as low as -424°F (-253°C), Chandrayaan-3’s lander and rover were not equipped with heaters typically used in moon missions. These heaters, known as radioisotope heater units (RHUs), passively radiate heat generated from the decay of radioactive substances like plutonium or polonium to keep spacecraft hardware at sustainable temperatures.

    Without RHUs, the survival of Chandrayaan-3’s robotic duo is left to chance. In contrast, previous moon missions, such as Lunokhod 1 and China’s Chang’e-3 rover, utilized similar mechanisms with radioisotope heaters to survive the extreme cold of lunar nights. Chandrayaan-3’s Pragyan rover was equipped with fully charged batteries before being put to sleep for the lunar night, providing the chance for extra-efficient battery charge during this time.

    The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has not publicly explained why RHUs were not included in Chandrayaan-3’s design. However, the mission has achieved its scientific objectives, including successfully landing in a region believed to contain frozen water reserves.

    As the lunar night continues, the fate of India’s lunar explorers remains uncertain. If the batteries can sustain sufficient charge, they may wake up and continue their mission. But if not, these groundbreaking lunar explorers may remain as India’s lunar ambassadors indefinitely.

    – Source article