India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission proved a scientific success as well as a technical victory in the competition to explore the Moon. After a successful landing on the south pole of the Moon, Chadrayaan-3 started work and they found a valuable ‘treasure’.
The Pragyan rover robot succeeded in analyzing the composition of the Moon’s surface near the Moon’s south pole. The data this time has value over previous missions to the Moon, both manned and landed robots, because the area under study is close to the possible location of human “bases” on the Moon in the future.
But so far, the mission has not found the most valuable discovery, namely the presence of ice or water there. Instead of ice, the Indian Space Research Organization ISRO announced that the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument aboard Chandrayaan-3 has confirmed the presence of another treasure – sulfur.
“This discovery is something that would not have been possible with the instruments on the orbiter,” ISRO said as quoted by IFL Science.
LIBS works by exposing materials to intense pulses of laser light, turning them into plasma whose electromagnetic spectrum can be split to identify their composition. All of this can be done with less than 1.2 watts of power. However, this technique only reveals the elements, not the molecules of the elements combined.
In addition to sulfur, initial research results include aluminum, calcium, iron, chromium, titanium, manganese, silicon and oxygen. Again, so far no hydrogen has been found which is a requirement for the presence of water in the sample.
“A thorough investigation into the presence of hydrogen is underway,” ISRO said.
This achievement occurred after the Vikram lander robot successfully carried out temperature measurements at high latitudes on the Moon for the first time.
Transporting large amounts of material to the Moon would be prohibitively expensive, even as the cost of space launches has decreased. Therefore, the only thing that is economically feasible to establish a long term presence there is if we can acquire most of our needs on site.
Evidence that water survives in frozen form on the floor of craters near the Moon’s south pole is one of the things that has sparked a new round of competition to land on the Moon after being ignored for decades.
This is what prompted India to make the first landing on the Moon at a position of 69 degrees south, and motivated Russia to make a similar attempt but unfortunately it failed and ended in an accident.
Confirming the existence of ice on the Moon will be a major achievement of Chandrayaan-3 if it manages it successfully. Meanwhile, sulfur is of particular concern because this material is easier to use to make concrete than relying on cement, the ingredients of which tend to be difficult to obtain on the Moon.
Even if Pragyan fails to find hydrogen in the materials she has studied, that is very forgivable and not considered to be fatal to any hope of finding ice on the Moon.
The deeper the rover enters the shadow of the crater walls, the more likely it is to find ice that persists there. Until now, the explorer robot has not reached the best place to carry out this search.
The route to these key locations is not smooth, especially for such a small vehicle. Nevertheless, the six-wheeled vehicle has so far managed well thanks to the help of control from Earth.
“On August 27, 2023, the rover discovered a 4 meter diameter crater located 3 meters ahead of its location,” ISRO wrote on its Twitter account.
“The rover was instructed to retrace its path. They are now safely on a new path,” they said.
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