BENGALURU: The Chandrayaan-3 rover Pragyan, whose rear wheels are embossed with the Indian national emblem and the Isro logo on the lunar soil, has been unable to leave a “clear” imprint of the two, which is a good sign as it gives a new understanding of the properties of the lunar soil in the south pole region.
New information about the soil in the south pole region, which is a target for multiple future missions as it holds the potential of discovery of water, could prove critical for missions envisaging lunar habitation and sustained human presence.

Isro chairman S Somanath told TOI in an exclusive interaction: ““You are right (the unclear emblem and logo imprints have given a new understanding). We already know it (soil) is different but we have to find out what’s making it different. The lunar soil is not acting dusty, but is lumpy. This means something is binding the soil, we need to study what is binding the soil,” he added.The testing of the embossed images leaving an imprint was done on lunar soil simulant (LSS) created by Isro Satellite Integration and Test Establishment (Isite), where it left clear imprints. The LSS was developed to match lunar soil samples collected by the US’ Apollo programme, which was from the Moon’s equatorial region.
TOI had indicated in a story last week that Isro was expected to learn new things about the lunar soil. Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) director Anil Bharadwaj had said: “…We can very clearly see rover movement paths being created, images of the vicinity of the landing site and rover movement site show grooves of the rover are about a centimetre, the lander legs going inside, suggesting loose soil. Soil will become compact as one goes deeper.”
Second innings
On the much anticipated second innings of Vikram (lander) and Pragyan, Somanath said: “Till now there has been no signal, but I cannot say it will not come up. We can wait the entire lunar day (14 Earth days) as there will be continuous sunlight throughout that period, which means temperature will only go up. As long as the temperature is increasing there are chances of systems inside getting warmed up. So the systems could even wake up on the 14th day, there is no way to predict when it could happen.”
He said there were multiple advantages to the two systems waking up again, the primary one being the ability to repeat the in situ experiments.

More hops?
“Many of the experiments we’ve done have given us data but that may change with time. For example, ChaSTE (Chandra’s Surface Thermo physical Experiment) can be put in a new location. If we do one more “hop” we can get a new dataset from another location, which is good. Because, any consistency of location will not give a true representation of the terrain. If we get more locations, there will be better representation and different characteristics,” he said.
He said even the Radio Anatomy of Moon Bound Hypersensitive ionosphere and Atmosphere would benefit from probing the Moon from a different location and so far as other payloads go, the advantage would be getting data from a different time.
Instruments on Pragyan have already done experiments from multiple locations, but more locations will always be good.

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