NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured a stunning new image of the landing site on the lunar south pole where the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully landed its spacecraft. The image, taken just a few days after the historic touchdown, shows the lander, Vikram, as a small blip in the vast expanse of the crater-pocked lunar landscape. Against the backdrop of gray dust that covers the ground, the lander appears to glow, thanks to the interaction between its rocket plume and the surrounding regolith.
Already Making Science Contributions
Although the lander and rover have only been operational for a few days, they have already begun conducting scientific experiments on the Moon. An analysis of the chemistry of the regolith at the landing site has revealed the presence of sulfur, manganese, silicon, and oxygen. Additionally, the lander has measured the plasma environment near the lunar surface, providing valuable data about the Moon’s atmosphere. Moreover, Vikram has successfully performed a “hop” test by firing its engines and bouncing up from its original position. Meanwhile, the rover, Pragyan, has been exploring the immediate surroundings of the landing site, collecting valuable data and imagery.
In an exciting development, the Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA), the first Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) technology-based instrument on the Moon, has recorded an intriguing seismic event. This seismic data is significant as it provides scientists with an opportunity to study the internal structure of the Moon. The Apollo program, which occurred decades ago, collected the previous seismic data that we currently have. With this new seismic data, scientists hope to gain a better understanding of the Moon’s internal composition and how it is structured.
Currently, both the lander and rover are in sleep mode as it is nighttime on the Moon, which lasts approximately 14 days. Being solar-powered, Vikram and Pragyan rely on sunlight to recharge their batteries. Hence, they enter sleep mode during the lunar night to conserve energy. However, on 22 September, they will awaken from their slumber and resume their explorations of the mysterious south pole of the Moon. This region of the Moon has garnered significant interest from scientists due to its potential for hosting valuable resources and providing us with key insights into the history and evolution of our celestial neighbor.
The new image captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter offers a breathtaking view of the Indian moon landing site. It showcases the lander and its surrounding lunar landscape, providing a visual testament to the success of the mission. The scientific contributions made by Vikram and Pragyan, such as analyzing the regolith and recording seismic activity, are invaluable in expanding our understanding of the Moon. As these missions continue to unfold, we can look forward to further breakthroughs and discoveries that will shape our knowledge of Earth’s closest celestial companion.