The Chandrayaan-3 mission’s lunar lander is visible on the moon’s surface. The Vikram lander touched down on August 23 after separating from its propulsion module, which remained in lunar orbit. The Indian Space Agency said that the propulsion unit has now returned to its orbit around Earth.
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The propulsion unit that powered India’s spacecraft for a historic lunar landing has just returned to Earth orbit, according to the Indian space agency. The move aims to test how the growing space force could one day bring back samples of lunar soil.
The propulsion module had more fuel remaining than the Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, had expected. So, the researchers decided to move forward with trying to bring the unit home. an agency He said on Monday.
The unit has now returned to Earth orbit.
The propulsion module — a large box-shaped unit with a solar panel and a motor strapped to its bottom — propels the rover Lunar lander for the Chandrayaan-3 mission During most of its journey to the Moon after the spacecraft was launched in mid-July.
After reaching lunar orbit three weeks later, the lander separated from the propulsion module and touched down on August 23, making India only the fourth country to land a rover on the lunar surface. Only the United States, China, and the former Soviet Union have ever achieved such an achievement.
The Vikram lander — and the six-wheeled Pragyan lander that deployed it — spent nearly two weeks carrying out all the science experiments planned for the mission before they were put into sleep mode during the lunar night, a two-week period when no sunlight reaches Earth. The surface of the moon.
Both the lander and rover remained dormant on the Moon after previous attempts to awaken the rovers failed. If the vehicles had been reactivated, it would have been an added bonus to the mission, which the Indian space agency deemed a complete success.
Meanwhile, the propulsion unit remained in lunar orbit. This component served as a relay point, sending data from the lander to Earth. The unit carried one experiment: Spectroscopic Habitable Earth Polarization Measurement, or SHAPE.
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The SHAPE experiment is designed to observe Earth from lunar orbit, capturing the properties of our home planet in near-infrared light that would make it habitable for humans. The goal of the study was to give scientists a blueprint for how to look for similar properties — called “biosignatures” — elsewhere in the universe.
The initial plan was to operate the SHAPE experiment for about three months, while the propulsion module continued to orbit through the lunar orbit.
But because the rocket that launched the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft brought it to this precise orbit, the propulsion module was left with more propellant than expected.
The space agency stated that the matter “resulted in the availability of more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of fuel in the (propulsion module, or PM) after more than a month of operations in lunar orbit.” “It was decided to use the available PM fuel to extract additional information for future lunar missions and demonstrate mission operating strategies for a sample return mission.”
This means that ISRO can use information from the propulsion module’s return to plot a future lunar landing mission that could return samples of lunar soil to Earth.
Similarly, India previously tested a sheltering method for the Chandrayaan-3 lander Retreat from the surface of the moon After landing. This was a short ‘jump’ test, where the car was raised a few centimeters off the ground. (However, the experiment did not attempt to return to lunar orbit or reconnect with the propulsion module. The maneuvers were merely intended to test aspects of the vehicle’s design to guide future missions.)
The propulsion unit is now orbiting about 96,000 miles (154,000 kilometers) above Earth, where it will make one orbit around the planet approximately every 13 days.
The space agency said in its statement that the propulsion module’s path toward Earth was drawn to consider “collision avoidance such as preventing PM from colliding with the lunar surface or entering the GEO Earth belt at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers and orbits below that.”
GEO, or geostationary orbit, is a region of space inhabited by large, expensive satellites that provide television and other communications services to people on Earth.
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