Discovery of Chandrayaan 3 / Oxygen on Moon


Chandrayaan 3
Chandrayaan 3

Using Chandrayaan 3 India did something that no country has done before. A touchdown on the South Pole of the Moon. The whole world celebrated this success.

Did you know that during the Pragyan rover's mission, it found Oxygen and Sulphur on the Moon?

Very few people have discussed the new facts discovered during Chandrayaan 3's experiments.  

Chandrayaan 3 landed moon

Chandrayaan 3 successfully landed on August 23, 2023. The following day, August 24, was the inaugural day of Vikram Lander's mission. The Pragyaan Rover was propelled down a ramp to begin its journey.

ISRO was regularly updating us through Twitter. This video from 25th August shows how Pragyan Rover is moving away from Vikram Lander. From 24 August to 4th September, Vikram and Pragyan made observations on the moon for around 12 days. After which they were put into sleep mode. But it is expected that they will wake up again. I will talk about this later, but first, let's understand the observations from these 12 days.

 Table of Facts and Figures:



Launch date

July 14, 2023

Landing date

August 23, 2023

Landing site

South pole of the Moon

Rover payloads

Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS)

Propulsion module

Spectro-polarimetry of Habitable Planet Earth (SHAPE) payload

Oxygen content of lunar soil

0.6% by weight

 Chandra's Surface Thermophysical Experiment:

Surface Thermophysical Experiment

Vikram Lander received its first CHaSTE readings on August 27th. CHaSTE stands for Chandra's Surface Thermophysical Experiment. The purpose of the instrument was to determine the surface temperature of the lunar topsoil. To understand how much the temperature varies on Moon's South Pole. A temperature probe was attached to the CHaSTE to measure the temperature. And there are 10 sensors on CHaSTE. This temperature probe can go 10 cm below the surface of the moon readings that it took there were very shocking, in my opinion. 

Look at this graph. It was observed here that by going 1 cm below the soil of the moon, the temperature changes by 10° Celsius. The temperature on the surface was almost 60° Celsius. But by probing 8 cm into the soil, the temperature reached -10° Celsius. Such a big temperature difference in just 8 cm. This chart shows the temperature difference between 0 and 80 mm deep. This is the first profile made for the South Pole of the Moon.

 ISRO published  photos:

ISRO published photo 27 August, 2023
ISRO published photo 27 August 2023

The same day, ISRO published 2 photos of the Pragyan rover when it was only 3 meters away from a big crater. In this picture, see that the diameter of this crater on the Moon was around 4 meters.  The scientists weren't trying to make Pragyan fall into this hole. So, they changed Pragyan's path. Pragyan had to go back. You can see some cool pics of it where you can see its wheels in the ground.

Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy instrument:

On 28th August, LIBS i.e. Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy instrument confirmed the presence of sulfur on the south pole of the moon. This was the first time that this was confirmed on the ground on the south pole of the moon.

The LIBS instrument was developed in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) by Bangalore’s Laboratory for Electromagnetic Systems (LFS). The purpose of this instrument is to study the chemical composition of the Moon’s soil and rocks. The method of operation of this instrument is also quite interesting. 

The instrument uses high-energy laser pulses. The laser is directed at the lunar soil, which has a very high temperature. The laser is aimed at a very small portion of the lunar soil. Because of the high temperature, the lunar soil is converted into plasma.


 What is plasma?

The 4 states of matter. Solid, liquid, gas, and the state after gas is plasma. When you put gas through extremely high temperatures, it gets converted into plasma and the plasma emits light. The name comes from the fact that the light emitted is produced by different elements. Our instrument measures the wavelengths of light emitted and, based on this measurement, can determine the elements in the moon’s soil.

 Laser-Induced Breakdown:

LIBS confirms the presence of Sulphur (S) on the lunar surface through unambiguous in-situ measurements

The stones or soil particles were broken down using a laser. The particles were converted into plasma and then the wavelength emitted by the particles was measured by spectroscopy. This is why it is called Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy.


RAMBHA is capable of measuring plasma, however, it will not be able to measure laser-induced decay. The following graph illustrates the various wavelengths of light produced during spectrometry. We are already aware of the wavelength of light produced by each element, so the wavelengths produced in large quantities can be used to infer the presence of these elements in the lunar soil. These include aluminium, iron, titanium, sulphur, calcium, and chromium.

According to NASA Project Scientist Noah Petro, the Moon was previously discovered to contain Sulphur in the 1970s by the Russian and American Apollo and Luna missions. However, the recent discovery made by the Chandrayaan mission is a remarkable achievement.  Because these are in-situ findings. It is the first experiment on the ground. The technology used before this was not so accurate.


In 2011, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) discovered a significant amount of Titanium on the Moon, however, they employed the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LROC). LROC is a spacecraft that orbits or rotates around the Moon. The evidence wasn't found by landing an instrument on the moon.

Japanese spacecraft:

Japanese spacecraft
Japanese spacecraft

In 2009, a Japanese spacecraft made an unambiguous discovery of uranium on the Moon, however, the technology employed in the LIBS process is much more sophisticated. This is the first time a definite discovery of sulphur has been made. In addition to sulfur, other elements such as Manganese, silicon, and oxygen have also been identified. It may come as a surprise to some that oxygen is present on the Moon, as it is found in soil and rocks. This oxygen is not in the form of oxygen gas, as there is no atmospheric presence on the Moon. Oxygen atoms exist in the rocks in the form of links with various elements.  

 For example, silicate minerals are formed from silicon and oxygen atoms. The good news is that this oxygen can be recovered and reused for other applications. For example, if there happens to be a permanent base on the moon for astronauts and oxygen is required there, then oxygen can be extracted from the rocks of the moon.


NASA successfully extracts oxygen from lunar soil simulant
25th April of this year, NASA successfully extracted oxygen from lunar soil simulant. It means that NASA has already worked on the technology for extracting this oxygen. The quantity of oxygen is so high in the moon's soil that it is said that the oxygen in the topsoil of the moon is enough to sustain 8 billion people for 100,000 years.

Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer:

Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer
Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer

Only with the oxygen in the top layer. Now, there is another payload similar to LIBS on Pragyan, Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, in short, APXS. Where LIBS studied lunar rocks and lunar soil, APXS is for the general surface of the moon. But the way they both work is quite different. LIBS relies on laser pulses, while APXS relies on radioactive materials.

 APXS emits alpha particles along with X-rays to the surface sample. Alpha particles are emitted during radioactive decay. This means that in APXS there is always a small radioactive source. Radioactive material that it carries with it. When the alpha particles and the X-rays collide with the atoms on the moon’s surface, they release electrons from the materials on the surface, which emit X-rays

This is how the name was coined. Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer.

 Now let's come to Vikram Lander. On August 31, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) released a report on how RAMBHA is doing. RAMBHA is an instrument on Vikram its full form is Radio Anatomy of Moon-bound Hypersensitive Ionosphere and Atmosphere.

 Like LIBS, its job is to analyze plasma. But it doesn't produce plasma. It doesn't shoot lasers into the moon's ground. It measures the moon’s naturally occurring plasma. This instrument is a 5 cm wide metallic spherical probe that is placed on a pole at the height of 1 meter on Vikram's upper deck. Developed under the aegis of the Kerala Space Physicists Laboratory at the VSSC in Thiruvanthanapuram.

In this photo published by ISRO, see the shadow of the RAMBHA instrument. The pole that you can see in the shadow. This is the instrument. Even though there is no atmosphere on the moon, a minute amount of plasma naturally exists on the surface of the moon. And RAMBHA detected this.


Approximately 5 to 30 million electrons per cubic meter of plasma are present on the lunar surface because it is so small, ISRO classifies it as 'Relatively small'. Electric current is used to measure it. RAMBHA can measure minor small electric currents. Pico-amperes. Current is measured in amperes. It measures current in pico-amperes. 10 raised to minus 12, the voltage is transferred through the probe, and the return current is measured. This identifies the densities of ions and electrons in the lunar plasma. By measuring the return current.

What does this mean? Why does it matter to us?

This tells us that radio waves can propagate easily on the moon without much interruption. If there were a greater amount of lunar plasma, radio wave transmission would be hindered. So, with the help of these findings, we will be able to design such things with which communication can be made easier. Because for communication, we use radio waves.

 Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity:

Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity
 Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity

Then we come to the next instrument, ILSA. ILSA's findings were also shared by ISRO on 31st August. The full form of this instrument is the Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity. Its name tells you that it was made to study earthquakes on the moon.


Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity

  • ILSA is the world’s first lunar payload utilizing MES technology on the Moon. In short, MEMS is a technology of microscopic devices. That is made up of micro components. They are so tiny that they range from 1 micrometer to 100 micrometers in size. This technology is commonly used in vehicle airbag sensors and blood pressure sensors. However, if we are talking about ILSA, ILSA was also used to record the vibrations. For example, when the Pragyan rover began to move on the moon’s surface, ILSA recorded the vibrations as well.
  • You can see in this graph, where the rover was moving, its vibrations can be seen on the graph like this. But you will notice a line in the middle this line is dated 26th August when a volcanic eruption occurred. This means that at this time, a volcanic eruption occurred on the moon.
  • By examining these moon quakes, we can gain a deeper understanding of the moon’s interior. We can learn more about what’s inside the moon, what’s the crust size, mantle size, and core size.
  • Apart from this, when humans go and permanently settle on the moon, it will be very important. We should also be aware of the magnitude of the moonquakes. How much can we produce there?

ISRO conducted a hop experiment with Vikram Lander:


ISRO conducted a hop experiment with Vikram Lander

After this, we come to 3rd September 2023 when ISRO conducted a hop experiment with Vikram Lander. The original landing site is called Shiv Shakti and the lander has been slightly moved from that site. Vikram’s engines have been re-fuelled and the lander goes up by 40 cm and lands again by 40 to 50 cm.

 To carry out this experiment, we had to fold back the ramp that was used to land Pragyan Rover. We also took inside the payloads CHaSTE payload and ILSA payload.

Before and after photos you can see the differences between the before photos and the after photos. The lander moved slightly. The hop experiment is important because when we do future human missions, we should have a good idea of whether or not the lander will be able to fly again. Bringing the people back to Earth. The next day (4th September), ISRO put Pragyan & Vikram on sleep mode around 8 AM. This sleep mode was needed to prepare for the lunar night.


ISRO Chief Kiran Kumar
ISRO Chief Kiran Kumar

Former ISRO Chief Kiran Kumar claims that they were put on sleep mode 2-3 days before the lunar night, for better preparation.  To allow the modules within them to automatically and completely turn off at the end of the lunar day. Pragyan’s battery has been fully charged before going into sleep mode. The location was chosen so that when the sun rises again, its solar panels are facing efficiently towards sunlight. For now, both Vikram’s and Pragyan’s payloads have been turned off, but both payloads’ receivers have been left switched on.

  • The mission’s nominal duration is one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 Earth days. Due to the extreme cold at night, this mission may not be able to make it past the first lunar day.
  • However, ISRO is optimistic that Pragyan, along with Vikram, will be able to wake up when the lunar day begins again at the South Pole.
  •  This happened with China's lander and rover before. When China launched its Chang’e-4 lunar lander and U-2 lunar rover. They were also put in sleep mode at night, but when the sun rose again, they woke up too.
  • The next day will be September 22 for Chandrayaan 3. If they start working again, it will be good news because ISRO scientists will be able to run some more experiments.
  • But if that doesn’t happen Pragyan would stay on the moon forever as India’s lunar ambassador.


What is the significance of the discovery of oxygen on the Moon?

Oxygen on the Moon can be used to create breathable air, water, and fuel, which will be essential for future human missions to the Moon. Oxygen can also be used to create rocket fuel, making it easier and more cost-effective to launch from the Moon in the future. Oxygen on the Moon may also contain other valuable resources like water ice and metal.

What are the next steps for Chandrayaan-3?

The Chandrayaan-3 mission is currently in its scientific phase, with the Lunar Module (Lander) and the Rover (Rover) collecting data on the lunar surface and the lunar environment. This mission is expected to yield valuable information on the Moon's past and present and may serve as a stepping stone for future human lunar missions.


·         Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO):

·         NASA:



  1. Chandrayaan-3 is a huge win for India in terms of space exploration and moon science. It's the first time a spacecraft has landed on the Moon and it's also the first to land on the South Pole.
  2. Plus, it's a major discovery that could have a huge impact on the future of human missions to the moon and beyond.
  3. Its proof that India is a big player in space exploration, and the success of the mission is a huge source of pride for India and inspiration to other countries.
  4. It's also a reminder of how important it is to work together with other countries in space exploration, like the US, Japan, France, and India.

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