Chandrayaan-3 lander Vikram comes up with a surprise, makes a ‘jump’ on the Moon

Chandrayaan-3 lander Vikram comes up with a surprise, makes a ‘jump’ on the Moon

Chandrayaan-3 lander Vikram comes up with a surprise, makes a ‘jump’ on the Moon


India's Chandrayaan-3 mission has achieved another milestone by successfully performing a hop experiment on the lunar surface. The Vikram lander, which soft-landed near the Moon's south pole on August 23, 2023, fired its engines and lifted itself by about 40 cm before landing safely at a distance of 30-40 cm away. This was the first time that a spacecraft has executed such a maneuver on the Moon.

What is a hop experiment and why is it important?

A hop experiment is a test of the spacecraft's ability to move from one location to another on the lunar surface using its propulsion system. It can help the spacecraft to avoid obstacles, explore different terrains, and reach new sites of scientific interest. It can also demonstrate the spacecraft's agility and robustness in a harsh environment.

The hop experiment was not part of the original mission objectives of Chandrayaan-3, but was added later as an optional task by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The ISRO scientists decided to conduct the hop experiment after the Vikram lander had completed its in-situ experiments using its onboard payloads. The hop experiment was carried out on August 29, 2023, at around 8 am IST.

How did the hop experiment work?

The hop experiment involved four steps:

- The Vikram lander first determined its current position and orientation using its sensors and cameras.
- The lander then calculated the optimal thrust and duration required to lift itself and move to a new location.
- The lander fired four of its eight 58 N throttleable engines for about one second, generating a total thrust of 232 N. This was enough to overcome the lunar gravity and lift the lander by about 40 cm.
- The lander then used its reaction wheels to control its attitude and landed safely at a distance of 30-40 cm away from its original position.

The entire hop experiment lasted for about two seconds and consumed about 0.5 kg of propellant. The lander transmitted the data and images of the hop experiment to the Earth via the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, which is still orbiting the Moon.

What are the benefits and challenges of the hop experiment?

The hop experiment has several benefits for lunar exploration. It can enable the spacecraft to:

- Explore more diverse and interesting sites on the Moon, such as craters, hills, valleys, and lava tubes.
- Avoid hazards such as rocks, dust, slopes, shadows, and temperature variations.
- Extend its mission life by finding locations with better illumination and communication conditions.
- Perform more scientific experiments by accessing different types of materials and features.

However, the hop experiment also poses some challenges for the spacecraft. It requires:

- A high level of autonomy and intelligence to plan and execute the hop maneuver without human intervention.
- A precise and reliable navigation and control system to ensure a safe and accurate landing at the desired location.
- A robust and resilient design to withstand the stress and shock of multiple take-offs and landings.
- A sufficient amount of propellant to perform multiple hops without compromising other mission objectives.

What are the future plans for Chandrayaan-3?

The Chandrayaan-3 mission is still ongoing and has exceeded its mission objectives. The Vikram lander has been put into sleep mode after completing its in-situ experiments. The Pragyan rover, which came out of the lander on August 24, 2023, has traversed over 100 meters on the lunar surface. It has performed various scientific measurements using its instruments such as APXS (Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer) and LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope).

The ISRO has also released some stunning images of the Vikram lander and its surroundings captured by the Pragyan rover's navigation camera. The images show a three-dimensional view of the lander and its shadow on the lunar terrain. The ISRO has created an anaglyph image using two images taken from different perspectives by the rover. The anaglyph image can be viewed using red-cyan glasses to get a stereo effect.

The ISRO has not announced any specific plans for further hops or roving by Chandrayaan-3. However, it has said that it will continue to monitor the health and performance of both the lander and rover as long as they are operational. The Chandrayaan-3 mission has already made India proud by achieving several firsts in lunar exploration. It has also opened new avenues for scientific discoveries and technological innovations.

Source

(1) Chandrayaan-3 lander Vikram comes up with a surprise, makes a ‘jump’ on the Moon. https://indianexpress.com/article/technology/science/chandrayaan-3-lander-vikram-hops-on-moons-surface-says-isro-8923440/.
(3) Chandrayaan-3: A complete guide to India's third mission to the moon. https://www.space.com/chandrayaan-3-indian-moon-mission-rover.
(4) Chandrayaan-3: ISRO Releases 3D 'Anaglyph' Images Of Vikram Lander From Moon's South Pole. https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/techandscience/chandrayaan-3-isro-releases-3d-anaglyph-images-of-vikram-lander-from-moons-south-pole/ar-AA1gixA9.
(5) Chandrayaan-3 Details - Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). https://www.isro.gov.in/Chandrayaan3_Details.html.

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