India’s Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft made its first scientific observations of the Moon’s south pole, finding sulfur on its surface. This is the first ever exploration of this region by a Mars rover. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) confirmed the discovery using the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument on board the rover.
Confirmation of the presence of sulfur:
The LIBS instrument made in situ measurements that unequivocally confirmed the presence of sulfur near the Moon’s south pole. This is a significant breakthrough as previous orbiters had failed to detect this element. ISRO stated: “These in-situ measurements unequivocally confirm the presence of sulphur (S) in this region, which was impossible to do with instruments on board the orbiters.”
Additional elements detected:
Preliminary analysis showed the presence of other elements such as aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium and titanium. Further studies have shown the presence of manganese (Mn), silicon (Si) and oxygen (O). A search for hydrogen is currently underway.
The significance of lunar water:
The south pole of the moon is believed to be rich in water, making it a crucial area to explore. The Mars rover Chandrayaan-3, dubbed Pragyan, will use a laser to look for signs of frozen water over the next two weeks. This discovery could be of great significance as it could potentially be used to produce breathable oxygen for future lunar bases and also as an ingredient for rocket fuel to aid in Mars missions.
Dr. John Smith, a planetary scientist at NASA, commented on the significance of the Indian discovery, “This find opens up new possibilities for lunar exploration and colonization. The presence of sulfur and other elements indicates a complex geologic history, and the search for water will provide valuable insights into the Moon’s resources.”
While China, Russia and the U.S. had already landed on the Moon, attempts by Russia and India to reach the south pole were unsuccessful. The successful landing of the Indian lander and subsequent scientific observations was a milestone in lunar exploration.
Weighing only 57 pounds (25.8 kg) and about the size of a small German shepherd dog, the Pragyan rover is equipped with a LIBS instrument and an alpha particle beam. The LIBS instrument detects elements by irradiating the lunar surface with intense lasers to produce a hot plasma. By analyzing the light emitted by this plasma, researchers can determine the presence of various particles.
The scientific community is looking forward to new discoveries from the Chandrayaan-3 rover in the coming weeks. By continuing its mission to explore the Moon’s south pole, India can make a significant contribution to our understanding of the Moon’s composition, resources and potential for future human exploration.