NEW DELHI: India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission has made significant findings about the lunar surface at Moon’s South Pole, according to a new analysis of data from its Pragyan rover’s exploration. The findings, which shed light on the distribution and origin of rock fragments in the area, mark a significant advancement in our understanding of lunar geology.
The Pragyan rover, deployed by the Vikram lander after the lunar touchdown on August 23, 2023, traversed 103 metre on the lunar surface during a single lunar day. As per the findings, the number and size of rock fragments increased when the Pragyan rover navigated 39 m toward the west of the landing site, Shiv Shakti point — the name given to Chandrayaan-3’s landing zone by PM Narendra Modi. The rover’s journey was in the Nectarian plains region between Manzinus and Boguslawsky craters — an area which is of special interest to scientists. These fragments were found scattered around the rims, wall slopes and floors of small craters, each no larger than 2 m in diameter.
The new findings, presented earlier this year at the International Conference on Planets, Exoplanets, and Habitability, show an interesting trend: both the number and size of rock fragments increased as the rover moved about 39 m westward from its landing site.
Two rock fragments discovered during the Chandrayaan mission exhibited signs of degradation, indicating they have undergone space weathering. The findings support previous studies that have suggested a gradual coarsening of rock fragments within the lunar regolith. The new discovery will inform strategies for potential resource utilisation on the Moon.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission marked a significant milestone for India as it became the first country in the world to achieve a soft landing in the lunar south pole and the fourth country to soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon, after the Soviet Union, US and China.