Following the historic touchdown of Chandrayaan 3’s Vikram lander, the Pragyan rover has effectively been deployed near the moon’s south pole. Currently, the only active rover on the lunar surface besides India’s is China’s Yutu 2 rover, sent by Chang’e 4. So, how far are these two rovers?
China has shared limited updates about the current status of its Yutu 2 rover, known as Jade Rabbit in Chinese. However, Bloomberg reported the rover to be still traversing the lunar surface, adding that it powers down during the two-week lunar night when temperatures plummet to below minus 170°C.
Table of Contents
ALSO READ- Chandrayaan 3 latest update: Vikram lander’s first finding about moon soil temperature is out: What is it?
What’s the approximate distance between the Pragyan and Yutu 2 rovers?
Chang’e-4 landed in the Von Karman crater in the South Pole-Aitkin Basin on 3 January 2019, becoming the first spacecraft to make a controlled landing on the far side of the Moon. Landing coordinates were 45.4561 S latitude, 177.5885 E longitude, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Chandrayaan 3 planned landing site for the Vikram lander was 69.367621 S, 32.348126 E and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said it landed well within the intended area.
Syed Ahmed, an ex-ISRO NASA scientist who is now working for XDLINX labs at Hyderabad, told HT that the distance between the rovers would be roughly 1,948 km.
Another space expert, Shanmuga Subramanian calculates the distance between 2 active rovers on the Moon is approximately 1,891 km (with variation of ± 5 km), adding that this may be the first time Earthlings have got two rovers consecutively on the Moon.
Will Pragyan Rover meet Yutu 2?
There’s no chance of the Indian rover encountering its Chinese counterpart, Yutu 2.
While the Pragyan rover is positioned to survey near the lunar south pole, it is capable of covering only up to 500 meters from its lander, Vikram. On the other hand, China’s rover has stayed relatively close to its initial landing site.
In contrast to China’s rover, Pragyan’s mission life is limited to one lunar day (about 14 Earth days), Yutu 2, operational since early 2019.
In the coming year, China will attempt to gather the first-ever samples from the moon’s far side through the Chang’e 6 mission.
Other active moon missions:
As of July 2023, six lunar orbiters remain operational, including NASA’s Artemis P1 and P2 probes, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 and Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), and NASA’s Capstone.
Spacecraft Ouna from Japan’s Kaguya/SELENE mission (2009) and India’s Chandrayaan-1 (2008) are no longer functional. Other orbiters have shifted or impacted the lunar surface, deliberately or due to soft landing failures. China’s Queqiao, a data relay satellite for Chang’e 4, moved to a halo orbit near Earth-Moon L2 point post its 2018 launch.