Chandrayaan-3 adds finding sulfur to its list of Moon firsts

The Indian Space Research Organization has officially announced that the Chandrayaan-3 rover of India has conclusively detected sulfur at the southern pole of the Moon.
Christopher McFadden
It has been quite a few days for the plucky little rover.


India's Chandrayaan-3 rover has officially confirmed the presence of sulfur and other elements on the south pole of the Moon, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) reported. Tasked with finding frozen water as its primary mission, this new discovery is also important and a great achievement for the Indian team.

Lunar sulfur confirmed

The Indian Space Research Organization announced that the rover's laser-induced spectroscope detected several elements, including aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen, and silicon on the lunar surface.

"The Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument onboard Chandrayaan-3 Rover has made the first-ever in-situ measurements on the elemental composition of the lunar surface near the south pole. These in-situ measurements confirm the presence of Sulphur (S) in the region unambiguously, something that was not feasible by the instruments onboard the orbiters," the ISRO reported.

The LIBS technique is a scientific method that examines the makeup of materials by subjecting them to powerful laser pulses. It involves directing a high-energy laser pulse onto the surface of a material, such as a rock or soil, which creates an extremely hot and localized plasma. The plasma light is then collected and analyzed using detectors like Charge Coupled Devices, which can determine the composition of the material based on the unique wavelengths of light emitted by each element in a plasma state.

The Chandrayaan-3 lunar rover descended from India's spacecraft via a ramp near the Moon's south pole and is set to perform experiments for the next 14 days, according to the ISRO. The rover "unambiguously confirms the presence of sulfur", they added. The rover is currently exploring for indications of frozen water, which may be useful for upcoming astronaut expeditions as a potential source of drinking water or for creating rocket fuel. Additionally, it will examine the moon's atmosphere and seismic movements, according to ISRO Chairman S. Somnath.

But everything hasn't gone without a hitch. On Monday (August 28, 2023), the rover's path was redirected after nearing a four-meter-wide crater. The Indian Space Research Organization stated that the rover is now on a safe, new route. The craft moves slowly at 10 centimeters per second to prevent damage from the moon's rough terrain.

A long road

With Chandrayaan-3, India became the fourth country to successfully land on the Moon last week, following the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. The successful mission highlights India's growing technology and space leader position. This aligns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's goal of projecting India as a rising power among the global elite. The mission began more than a month ago at an estimated cost of $75 million, the Associated Press reported.

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