The Indian Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft touched down as the first landing ever at the Moon’s south pole at 6 p.m. local time as Indians around the world watched in bated breath, hoping to witness the first-ever successful Indian moon landing. Chandrayaan means “mooncraft” in Sanskrit. The craft launched six weeks ago, a longer period than traditional Moon travel. It landed on the Moon with the Vikram (“valorous) lander and the Pragyan (“wisdom”) rover. With this, India became the fourth nation to have landed a craft on the Moon, coming after Russia (the Soviet Union at the time), the United States, and China.
Video shows the moment ISRO scientists celebrate the landing in their Bengaluru/Bangalore HQ in Karnataka state. The craft was originally launched at the Satish Dhawan Space Center, located in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.
This is a historic moment for the Indian space program, which had been struggling in the past with failures in Moon landings, most prominently the 2019 crash of Chandrayaan-2 moments before touchdown on the surface. The first Indian Moon probe was launched in 2008, and since then, the space program, while on the lower side of funding, has been able to achieve considerable advancements. As well as at a much more affordable price tag compared to other nations such as the U.S. or Russia. AFP reports that this has in part to do with a much larger resource of highly skilled Indian engineers and scientists who are working for much lower wages than their international counterparts. The rockets were less powerful than traditional moon launches, so the craft had to circle the Earth to gain momentum for the “fling” to the Moon, meaning the journey was also considerably longer than, for instance, the American Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s that were manned and had tighter time constraints due to that.
Former ISRO chief K. Sivan told AFP that India’s efforts to explore the relatively unmapped lunar south pole would make a “very, very important” contribution to scientific knowledge.
Pragyan Rover has been deployed by Vikram Lander.
Everything looks good so far. pic.twitter.com/BUIrjiVByT
— News Arena India (@NewsArenaIndia) August 23, 2023
A recent Russian lunar probe also sought to land near the south pole, with a landing planned a few days before the Indian craft launched on August 10th. However, the craft would end up crashing on August 19th after a failed orbital maneuver. It was Russia’s first such attempt in 47 years.
AP Syndicated Feed:
“The lunar rover will slide down a flap from the lander within hours or a day and conduct experiments, including an analysis of the mineral composition of the lunar surface, said S. Somnath, chairman of the state-run Indian Space Research Organization. Somnath said the mission is expected to last two weeks, and that India would next attempt a manned lunar mission.
The success of the lunar mission will likely help Indian Prime Minister Modi’s popularity ahead of a crucial general election next year. (Modi appeared predominantly in the online and televised livestream of the landing, featured in between cuts of the scientists and the spacecraft.)
Excited and anxious, people across India, home to the world’s largest population, crowded around televisions in offices, shops, restaurants and homes. Thousands prayed Tuesday for the success of the mission with oil lamps on the river banks, temples and religious places, including the holy city of Varanasi in northern India. Dozens of people in a government-run planetarium started praying with folded hands as the lander approached the lunar surface for landing. They switched to cheering and clapping as the touch down happened. A man waved a banner reading ’The Moon in India’s arms.”
Shrini Singh, a New Delhi resident, said she got goosebumps. ’It’s a very happy moment … you can see the energy. It’s beyond words.” Mitakshi Sinha, a student, said the space agency’s success motivated her. “And now I also want to be part of ISRO.”
After the landing, congratulations poured in from around the world, cementing India’s emergence as a modern space power.
Many countries and private companies are interested in the south pole region because permanently shadowed craters may hold frozen water that could help future astronaut missions. Japan plans to launch a lunar lander to the moon over the weekend as part of an X-ray telescope mission, and two U.S. companies also are vying to put landers on the moon by the end of the year, one of them at the south pole. In the coming years, NASA plans to land astronauts at the lunar south pole, taking advantage of the frozen water in craters.
The six-wheeled lander and rover module of Chandrayaan-3 is configured with payloads that would provide data to the scientific community on the properties of lunar soil and rocks, including chemical and elemental compositions.”