Back in early August, the Chandrayaan-3 mission captured a breathtaking video of the Moon as the spacecraft prepared to land on the lunar surface. Then, several days later, the spacecraft helped India become the first nation to land at the Lunar South Pole. Now, though, the Chandrayaan-3 mission has missed a crucial check-in after going to sleep for a lunar night.
Technically, the Chandrayaan-3 mission has been a massive success, with the lander achieving its goals and the subsequent release of the Pragyan rover going according to plan as well. After completing its primary missions, the lander and the rover went into sleep mode with fully charged batteries to wait out the lunar night.
Both spacecraft had solar panels pointed toward the Sun, and the ISRO was hopeful that the two would reawaken when the lunar night passed and the Sun once more rose over the Lunar South Pole. However, according to a tweet from the ISRO, the Chandrayaan-3 mission has missed this important check-in, and no signal has been received from either the rover or the lander.
“Efforts have been made to establish communication with the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover to ascertain their wake-up condition,” the tweet reads. “As if now, no signals have been received from them. Efforts to establish contact will continue.”
Now, there are a couple of possibilities here for why Chandrayaan-3 missed its check-in. While it’s possible that both the Vikram lander and the Pragyan rover have not survived the harsh, cold Lunar night, it’s also likely that the sheer cold drained the batteries onboard the two spacecraft, and they now require recharging via the solar panels installed on them.
Unfortunately, it’s too early to tell precisely what the issue might be. This wouldn’t be the first time a spacecraft didn’t survive a cold night on another cosmic body, though. Previously, China’s Martian rover failed to wake up after the harsh Martian winter. The cause there, though, was likely more due to the intense dust storms that Mars experiences across its surface.