The successful landing marks India’s emergence as a space power. It makes India the fourth country after the US, the former Soviet Union, and China to achieve the feat and the first to land near the moon’s south pole.
India on Wednesday became the first country to land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole. “India is on the moon,” S. Somanath, chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said as the Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander made a “soft landing” on the lunar surface.
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“This is a victory cry of new India,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who watched the final moment before touchdown from Johannesburg where he is attending the BRICS summit. Modi hoped mission success would spur investment in private space launches and related satellite-based businesses.
Joy as spacecraft touch down
The successful landing comes just days after Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft crashed into the moon after losing control. India’s previous attempt to land on the moon failed in 2019, but on Wednesday, scientists and officials clapped at the country’s cheered and hugged each other as the spacecraft landed.
The mission was launched nearly six weeks ago, and people across India were glued to television screens and said prayers as the spacecraft approached the surface.
The south pole of the moon has potential as a source of oxygen, fuel, and water for future missions and a moon colony. Chandrayaan-3 is expected to explore it for two weeks, running a series of experiments to determine the mineral composition of the lunar surface.
Several countries, including the United States, China, Israel and Japan, aim to set up a base on the moon. Only the United States, China and the former Soviet Union have previously achieved a controlled landing on the lunar surface.
Other space agencies took note
The European Space Agency (ESA) director general Josef Aschbacher was among the first to congratulate India’s ISRO. “What a way to demonstrate new technologies AND achieve India’s first soft landing on another celestial body. Well done, I am thoroughly impressed,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Senator Bill Nelson, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) administrator, also congratulated India. “We’re glad to be your partner on this mission!” he wrote on social media. NASA and ESA provided tracking support to the Chandrayaan-3 mission.