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The history-making Chandrayaan-3 mission, which landed on the lunar surface two days ago, has deployed its small, six-wheeled rover on an exploratory expedition to better understand the composition of the moon’s soil.
The Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, said in a social media post that the rover, which rode to the lunar surface tucked inside the lander, successfully exited the spacecraft on Thursday by rolling down a small ramp.
The agency also released a short video clip from the lander, called Vikram, showing the ramp deploying and the rover making its careful exit.
The space agency also said Friday that the rover, named Pragyan or “wisdom” in Sanskrit, traveled 8 meters (26 feet), and both of its scientific instruments were functioning.
The Pragyan rover is equipped with two key features: the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer and the Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, both of which are capable of determining the chemical elements present in soil and rocks on the lunar surface.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission touched down on the moon Wednesday, making India the fourth country to complete a successful soft landing on the lunar surface. The vehicle also landed closer to the moon’s south pole than any other spacecraft has ventured.
The south pole region is considered an area of key scientific and strategic interest for spacefaring nations as scientists believe it home to water ice deposits. The water, frozen in shadowy craters, could be converted into rocket fuel or even drinking water for future crewed missions.
The Indian space agency also said Friday that the lunar lander, the rover and the propulsion module — which was used to boost the lander from Earth’s orbit out to the moon and remains in orbit around the moon — are all functioning as planned.
The agency on Thursday shared footage captured by the lander in the final moments before touchdown, showing a piece of the spacecraft body as it whisked by the dusty gray lunar terrain.
The lander and rover are expected to function for about two weeks on the moon’s surface.
Before Chandrayaan-3, only the United States, the former Soviet Union and China had safely landed spacecraft on the moon. The success of Chandrayaan, which means “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit and Hindi, helps cement India’s status as a global space superpower.
Its successful touchdown also came just days after Russia, attempting its first lunar landing since the Soviet era, crash-landed on the moon’s surface after its Luna 25 vehicle misfired.
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