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News: This article is supposed to be read in continuation with The Chandrayaan-3 that was covered on 15th July.
• All the previous spacecraft to have landed on the Moon have landed in the equatorial region, a few degrees latitude north or south of the lunar equator.
• If everything goes well, the Chandrayaan-3 will become the world’s first mission to soft-land near the lunar south pole.
Why hasn’t any spacecraft landed near the lunar south-pole?
• Firstly, it is easier, safer to land near equator. The terrain, temperature conditions are hospitable to carry out sustained operations of instruments.
• Sunlight is present in abundance, at least on the side facing the earth, thus offering a regular supply of energy to solar-powered instruments.
• The polar regions of moon are difficult to explore with tough terrains, dark regions where there is absence of sunlight which makes it difficult to carry out operations. Thus, it is extremely challenging.
So why is it that Scientists want to explore the lunar south-pole?
• Indication of presence of ice molecules in abundance within deep craters found in the region. India’s 2008 Chandrayaan-1 mission indicated the presence of water on the lunar surface.
• The rocks and soil in Moon’s north and south poles could provide clues to the early Solar System.
Why don’t some parts of lunar polar regions receive any sunlight?
• Unlike the Earth, whose spin axis is tilted with respect to the plane of the Earth’s solar orbit by 23.5 degrees, the Moon’s axis tilts only 1.5 degrees. Thus, sunlight never shines on the floors of a number of craters near the lunar north and south poles.
• These areas are known as Permanently Shadowed Regions, or PSRs.