Hope fading as India’s groundbreaking Moon lander and rover fail to wake up from hibernation

India’s groundbreaking Moon lander and rover that made history last month after becoming the first spacecraft to soft land on the lunar south pole have not “woken up” after they were put into hibernation.

Indian space agency Isro has so far failed to re-establish communication with both the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover, that were part of India’s path-breaking Chandrayaan-3 mission.

Isro on Friday said “no signals have been received” from Vikram and Pragyan, raising concerns about the mission’s further exploration of the lunar surface.

“Efforts have been made to establish communication with the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover to ascertain their wake-up condition,” the Indian space agency said.

India made history on 23 August with its groundbreaking soft landing on the Moon’s south pole, with the mission crossing another milestone just hours later once the rover exited the lander module to explore the lunar surface.

Nearly a week later, the rover, moving at a slow speed of around 10cm (4in) per second, detected the “unambiguous” presence of sulphur and other elements near the south pole and continued to look for signs of frozen water on the lunar surface.

One of the instruments aboard the lander then recorded a seismic event on the Moon, “appearing to be a natural one”, the source of which Isro said on 31 August was “under investigation”.

Meanwhile, another instrument that is part of the mission, made the first-ever measurements of the plasma environment over the south pole surface – observations which Isro said could lead to “enhanced” communication system designs for “upcoming lunar visitors”.

With the mission’s main aim of landing on the Moon’s south pole and demonstrating India’s “end-to-end landing and roving capabilities” completed, Isro hoped to extend the functioning of the rover and the lander, designed to work for one lunar day – about 14 days on Earth.

Isro switched the rover to hibernation mode on 2 September, and the lander two days later. Their awakening was expected to have happened around 22 September.

“The rover completes its assignments. It is now safely parked and set into sleep mode,” Isro had said in an earlier statement, adding that its payloads were turned off and the data it collected has been transmitted to the lander.

“Currently, the battery is fully charged. The solar panel is oriented to receive the light at the next sunrise expected on September 22, 2023. The receiver is kept on. Hoping for a successful awakening for another set of assignments!” Isro said.

While the rover and lander duo completed the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s primary goals, the agency hopes they can survive the ultracold lunar night.

“Efforts to establish contact will continue,” the space agency said.

Former Isro chief AS Kiran Kumar told BBC on Monday that chances of the rover and lander awakening are “dimming with each passing hour”.

“Unless the transmitter on the lander comes on, we have no connectivity. It has to tell us that it’s alive. Even if all other sub-systems work, we have no way of knowing that,” Mr Kumar said.