In an exciting milestone for lunar scientists around the globe, India’s Chandrayaan-3 lander touched down 375 miles (600 km) from the south pole of the Moon on Aug. 23, 2023.

In just under 14 Earth days, Chandrayaan-3 provided scientists with valuable new data and further inspiration to explore the Moon. 

And the Indian Space Research Organization has shared these initial results with the world.

While the data from Chandrayaan-3’s rover, named Pragyan, or “wisdom” in Sanskrit, showed the lunar soil contains expected elements such as iron, titanium, aluminum and calcium, it also showed an unexpected surprise – sulfur.

Planetary scientists like me have known that sulfur exists in lunar rocks and soils, but only at a very low concentration.

These new measurements imply there may be a higher sulfur concentration than anticipated.

Pragyan has two instruments that analyze the elemental composition of the soil – an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and a laser-induced breakdown spectrometer, or LIBS for short. Both of these instruments measured sulfur in the soil near the landing site.

Sulfur in soils near the Moon’s poles might help astronauts live off the land one day, making these measurements an example of science that enables exploration.

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