India's Chandrayaan-3 moon lander fails to answer wake-up call, may be dead for good

The Chandrayaan 3 mission's Vikram lander photographed on the moon's surface by the Pragyan rover.
The Chandrayaan 3 mission's Vikram lander photographed on the moon's surface by the Pragyan rover. (Image credit: ISRO)

Engineers at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) have begun attempts to wake the Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander and rover from hibernation after the two-week frosty lunar night.

On Friday (Sept. 22), ISRO said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that it has made attempts "to establish communication with the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover to ascertain their wake-up condition." 

After further attempts to awaken the rover and lander on Monday (Sept. 25), the engineers still haven't heard back from the iconic duo, the first two human-made objects to land in the moon's south polar region.

"Efforts to establish contact will continue," ISRO said in the post. However, ISRO mission officials told the BBC on Monday that chances of awakening the duo are "dimming with each passing hour."

Related: Humanity's future on the moon: Why Russia, India and other countries are racing to the lunar south pole

Chandrayaan-3 landed near the lunar south pole on Aug. 23, making India only the fourth nation in history to stick a lunar landing, after the U.S., Russia and China.

In the two weeks that followed, Pragyan explored the landing site, beaming images back to Earth, while Vikram performed a set of scientific experiments including measuring the temperature of the top layer of the lunar regolith. The probe also analyzed the chemical composition of the lunar dust and found traces of sulfur, which might hold clues to past volcanic activity.

The Pragyan rover was put to sleep on Sept. 2, when all of its instruments were turned off. The Vikram lander followed suit two days later. The mission completed its primary mission goals, but ISRO hopes that the two spacecraft may have been able to survive the frosty lunar night.

Chandrayaan-3 was India's second attempt to land on the moon. The mission's predecessor, Chandrayaan-2, crashed in 2019 due to a software glitch. The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, however, is still studying the moon from lunar orbit.

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Tereza Pultarova
Live Science Contributor
Tereza is a London-based science and technology journalist, video producer and health blogger. Originally from Prague, the Czech Republic, she spent the first seven years of her career working as a reporter, script-writer and presenter for various TV programmes of the Czech national TV station. She later took a career break to pursue further education and added a Master in Science from the International Space University, France, to her Bachelor's degree in Journalism from Prague's Charles University. She is passionate about nutrition, meditation and psychology, and sustainability.