India's Moon mission continues to triumph, Japan's waits for better weather

JAXA's SLIM scheduled to arrive after Chandrayaan-3 says goodnight

India's Chandrayaan-3 Moon mission continues to achieve its goals, but Japan will have to wait a little longer for its attempts to land on Luna to succeed.

As we reported on Wednesday, the Vikram lander touched down without incident. India's Space Research Organisation has since revealed that its accompanying Pragyan rover has hit the ground rolling.

"Rover mobility operations have commenced," the space agency posted to X/Twitter on Thursday, without disclosing further details like the distance or direction of travel.

That update also reported that three of Vikram's payloads have been switched on, namely:

  • The Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA) will, as its name suggests, try to detect any subsurface rumblings;
  • Chandra's Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) will measure thermal conductivity and temperature;
  • RAMBHA stands for Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive ionosphere and Atmosphere.

The mission last Sunday enabled an instrument named SHAPE – Spectro-polarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth – that is housed in the propulsion module that carried Vikram and Pragyan to within 100km of Luna. SHAPE will study the spectral and Polarimetric measurements of Earth from lunar orbit. Polarimetric measurements allow more precise measurement of distant objects than is possible by considering brightness alone.

The propulsion module is hoped to operate for up to six months, but Vikram and Pragyan are scheduled to operate for just 14 days because neither is built to survive a lunar night.

After India's Moon-dwellers stop working, Japan's moonshot will make a belated attempt at a landing.

The Japanese space agency on Thursday announced that the H-IIA launch vehicle carrying its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) has been delayed by at least one day. Liftoff is now planned for August 27 due to poor weather at the Tanegashima Space Center.

An extra day of delays is not horrendous, given the mission was once slated for launch in 2021.

SLIM will take around three weeks to reach the Moon. When it attempts a landing it will use onboard data about its preferred touchdown sites to pick itself an optimal spot. If the mission succeeds, Japan will be the fifth nation to land a working Moon probe.

The H-IIA launcher is the 47th of its type, so should be a decently safe bet. Japan's last two major launches have failed, but those missions used newer and less-proven launchers. ®

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