India's moon lander and rover didn't wake up despite high hopes

  • India's moon rover and lander was set to wake up after a nearly month-long nap.

  • Despite high hopes, the lander and rover didn't respond to a wake-up message.

  • This could mean the end of a successful mission for the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover.

Despite high hopes, two historic robots remain fast asleep near the moon's south pole, according to the Indian Space Research Organization.

India's Chandrayaan-3 moon lander and its adorable sidekick lunar rover were set to wake up around September 22. The ISRO 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 when night set in and their batteries drained. The next sunrise took place on September 22. ISRO hoped the solar panels would recharge and reawaken the spacecraft.

However, they haven't responded to mission control's message.

In late August, mission operations director M. Srikanth told The Times of India the team was confident the lander and rover would return to life after sunrise. "If that happens, that will be a bonus and in case that cannot be achieved, the mission is still complete," he said.

Despite Srikanth's optimism, it was always a long shot that the two robots would withstand the moon's elements. Nighttime temperatures on the moon can dip to as low as -334 degrees Fahrenheit, according to NASA. The lander and rover weren't built to withstand such cold, The New York Times reports.

Chandrayaan-3 mission complete

image of the lander on the moon
India's Chandrayaan-3 Vikram lander on the moon.ISRO

Mission control will continue to send messages to the spacecraft. 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. For example, the moon rover confirmed the presence of sulfur in the lunar south pole region.

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 were the first to study the south pole region up-close and sample it directly. Scientists and companies who want to build a base on the moon have watched the mission with great interest.

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