Right now, there are two historic robots fast asleep near the moon’s south pole — India’s Chandrayaan-3 moon lander and its adorable sidekick lunar rover.
The nap is almost over, hopefully.
The two robotic explorers are set to wake up around September 22, according to the Indian Space Research Organization, which landed them on the moon in a historic first in August.
Both ISRO’s Vikram lander and Pragyan rover run on solar power. Therefore, they need sunlight to charge their batteries and operate their scientific instruments.
They went to sleep in early September because night set in and their batteries drained.
“The solar panel is oriented to receive the light at the next sunrise expected on September 22, 2023. “The receiver is left on,” ISRO posted on X (formerly Twitter).
However, despite high hopes, there is a chance the historic robots won’t wake up.
Nighttime temperatures on the moon can dip to as low as -334 degrees Fahrenheit, according to NASA, and India doesn’t have access to technology that can withstand such cold, Pallava Bagla, an author who has written about India’s space exploration, told Al Jazeera.
Chandrayaan-3 mission complete
Even if ISRO’s lunar lander and rover don’t wake up, the robots have already done what they were designed to do — explore the lunar south pole region for the first 14 days after touchdown.
Within just those two weeks, the two robots made some important scientific discoveries. The moon rover, for example confirmed that sulphur was present in the region of the south pole on the Moon.
Moreover, preliminary analyses suggested the presence of aluminum, calcium, iron, chromium, titanium, and a possible moonquake.
India is the fourth country — after the US, Russia, and China — to land on the moon, and the first to ever land near the lunar south pole.
The lunar south pole region is of particular interest because it contains water ice. Water ice, or H2O, could eventually be mined and broken down into oxygen for breathing as well as hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel.
India’s lunar lander and rover are the first to study the south pole region up-close and sample it directly. So their reawakening is of great interest to scientists as well as companies who want to build a base on the moon.
“So far, all margins are looking good and we are confident of the lander and rover coming back to life when night ends,” mission operations director M. Srikanth told The Times of India. “If that happens, that will be a bonus and in case that cannot be achieved, the mission is still complete.”