Tech and Science

India’s lunar rover confirms sulfur and detects several other elements near the lunar south pole


India's lunar rover confirmed the presence of sulfur and detected several other elements near the lunar south pole while searching for signs of frozen water nearly a week after its historic moon landing, the Indian space agency said on Tuesday.

The rover's laser-induced spectroscope instrument also detected aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen and silicon on the lunar surface, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said in a post on its website.

The lunar rover descended a ramp from the Indian spacecraft's lander after landing near the moon's south pole last Wednesday. According to ISRO, the Chandrayan-3 rover will conduct experiments for 14 days.

The rover “conclusively confirms the presence of sulfur,” ISRO said. It is also looking for signs of frozen water that could aid future astronaut missions as a potential source of drinking water or for making rocket fuel.

The rover will also study the moon's atmosphere and seismic activity, said ISRO Chairman S. Somnath.

On Monday, the rover's route was reprogrammed as it approached a 4-meter-wide crater. “There's definitely a new way now,” said ISRO.

The vehicle will move at a slow speed of approximately 10 centimeters per second to minimize shock and damage to the vehicle through the moon's rough terrain.

After a failed attempt to land on the moon in 2019, India last week became only the fourth country to reach the milestone, along with the US, the Soviet Union and China.

The successful mission demonstrates India's growing position as a technology and space power and fits the image Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to convey: an emerging country asserting its place in the global elite.

The mission began more than a month ago and cost an estimated $75 million.

India's success came just days after Russia's Luna-25, trying to target the same lunar region, went into an uncontrolled orbit and crashed. It would have been the first successful Russian moon landing in 47 years. Russia's head of the state-controlled space company Roskosmos attributed the failure to a lack of expertise due to the long hiatus in lunar research after the last Soviet lunar mission in 1976.

Active since the 1960s, India has launched satellites for itself and other countries, successfully putting one into orbit around Mars in 2014. India is planning its first mission to the International Space Station next year in cooperation with the United States.

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