Back in early August, the Chandrayaan-3 mission captured a breathtaking video of the Moon as the spacecraft prepared to land on the lunar surface. Then, several days later, the spacecraft helped India become the first nation to land at the Lunar South Pole. Now, though, the Chandrayaan-3 mission has missed a crucial check-in after going to sleep for a lunar night.
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Technically, the Chandrayaan-3 mission has been a massive success, with the lander achieving its goals and the subsequent release of the Pragyan rover going according to plan as well. After completing its primary missions, the lander and the rover went into sleep mode with fully charged batteries to wait out the lunar night.
Both of the spacecraft were equipped with solar panels pointing toward the Sun. The ISRO hoped that they would awaken when the moon’s night ended and the Sun rose again over the Lunar South Pole. However, according to a tweet from the ISRO, the Chandrayaan-3 mission has missed this important check-in, and no signal has been received from either the rover or the lander.
“Efforts have been made to establish communication with the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover to ascertain their wake-up condition,” the tweet reads. “As if now, no signals have been received from them. Efforts to establish contact will continue.”
Now, there are a couple of possibilities here for why Chandrayaan-3 missed its check-in. It’s possible the Vikram Lander and Pragyan Rover did not survive the cold, harsh Lunar Night. However, the cold may have drained their batteries, and now they need to be recharged via solar panels.
Unfortunately, it’s too early to tell precisely what the issue might be. It wouldn’t, however, be the first instance of a spacecraft not surviving a night in a frigid environment on another celestial body. Previously, China’s Martian rover failed to wake up after the harsh Martian winter. The cause there, though, was likely more due to the intense dust storms that Mars experiences across its surface.