Chandrayaan-3 Makes Breakthrough as Pragyan Rover Confirms Presence of Sulphur, Oxygen, Iron, Titanium On Moon

On the evening of August 23, everyone was hooked to their screens as it watched the Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram Lander touchdown on the Moon’s icy south pole with great sangfroid. 

But the lunar mission’s treacherous journey hardly ended there; it still had work to do. Not long after the lander settled on foreign terrain, the six-wheeled Pragyan rover, which accompanied the Vikram Lander, rolled out of its belly. And in the few days that it has spent exploring the Moon in search of frozen water, its path hasn’t been without trials. On August 27, the rover almost found itself in a thirteen-foot-wide crater that threatened to swallow it whole. 

However, ground control spotted the chasm and had Pragyan retrace its steps, putting it on an alternate route. And the rover seems to have made quite a bit of progress since then. Yesterday, ISRO proudly announced that the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) payload aboard Pragyan has unambiguously confirmed the presence of sulphur in the lunar surface! What’s more, these “first-ever in-situ” measurements to be carried out at the Moon’s pole also point to the presence of elements like aluminium, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen and silicon on the Moon1.

The detection of sulphur, a rare element on the Moon, at the lunar south pole, is crucial information for future lunar missions. Considering sulphur typically originates from volcanic activities, its presence on the Moon can offer valuable insights into the Moon’s history and composition1. In fact, China’s lunar rover also found signs of volcanic activity under the Moon’s surface very recently.

The Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument onboard Chandrayaan-3 Rover has made the first-ever in-situ measurements on the elemental composition of the lunar surface near the south pole2. “These in-situ measurements confirm the presence of sulphur in the region unambiguously, something that was not feasible by the instruments onboard the orbiters,” it said. The spectrographic analysis also confirmed the presence of aluminium, calcium, iron, chromium and titanium on the lunar surface2. ISRO added that additional measurements showed the presence of manganese, silicon and oxygen2.

This is a major breakthrough for India’s space program and a proud moment for all Indians. The Chandrayaan-3 mission has captivated public attention since launching nearly six weeks ago in front of thousands of cheering spectators2. Its successful touchdown on the moon last week came just days after Russia’s Luna-25 lander crashed in the same region. The six-wheeled solar-powered rover Pragyan will continue to amble around and transmit images and scientific data over its two-week lifespan as it searches for signs of frozen water that could help future astronaut missions as a potential source of drinking water or make rocket fuel2.