By the looks of it, the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover, the two components of the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft that are on the moon, may never wake up.
As of Friday late evening, India’s space agency, ISRO, tweeted on X (formerly, Twitter): “Efforts have been made to establish communication with the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover to ascertain their wake-up condition.”
However, “As of now, no signals have been received from them,” ISRO said, adding that “efforts to establish contact will continue.”
Ever since the momentous day of August 23, when ISRO soft-landed the Vikram on the lunar surface, instruments onboard the lander and the rover that later slid out of Vikram’s belly were active for nearly two weeks, doing various experiments. But on September 3, when the lunar day ended, they were put on ’sleep mode’.
Since then, the question whether the lander and the rover would wake up or not, has been uppermost on every space enthusiast’s mind. The world tensely awaited ISRO’s update, as the first rays of the sun strikes the moon surface after 14 earth days.
But now it looks like the latest immigrants to the moon will come alive again or have lost their lives to the lunar cold.
It was well flagged that the chances of Vikram buzzing back to life and the rover crawling around in the eerie desolation of the lunar south pole were slim. The extreme cold of the night, which could go well below minus 220 degrees C, will have frozen the electronic components dead.
As businessline pointed out in an earlier report, it is not as though ISRO could not have provided life-protecting warmth to the lander and rover, but adding features would have complicated the mission, whose primary objective was to demonstrate a soft landing on the moon.
Spacecraft can be protected against the extreme cold of space in many ways—for example, by radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG), in which radio-active decay of Plutonium-238 is accompanied by release of heat.