On Wednesday, the Chandrayaan-3, India’s ambitious moon mission, achieved a significant milestone by landing safely on the moon’s uncharted south pole. This monumental achievement establishes India as the fourth nation to ever land on the moon and the first to touch down on one of its poles. Past successful landings have been carried out by Russia (previously the Soviet Union), the U.S., and China.
The Journey and The Achievement
Launched last month, the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft touched down on the lunar surface around 8:34 a.m. ET, making India the first nation to achieve this feat, particularly after Russia’s Luna-25 failed in a similar attempt days earlier. This marks India’s second attempt, following the Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2019 which resulted in a crash due to a software malfunction. The spacecraft’s landing was witnessed by millions worldwide. Nearly 7 million people viewed the YouTube livestream. Celebratory prayers and live screenings were organized across India. The rover, named “Pragyan”, exited the spacecraft a day after the successful landing to commence experiments on the lunar surface.
The Mission’s Significance
The mission, executed with a budget of around 6.15 billion rupees ($75 million), holds monumental significance for several reasons: Scientific Exploration: The rover is equipped with tools designed to conduct elemental and chemical composition experiments. It will also undertake a robotic path planning exercise vital for future space missions. The lunar south pole is of particular interest due to the traces of water ice, which has immense potential as a source of fuel, oxygen, and drinking water for future space missions. Geopolitical Implications: India’s Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has effectively marked its presence as a formidable player in space exploration. Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized that the success of the Chandrayaan-3 is not just a victory for India but for all of humanity.
Possible Challenges Ahead
While the mission has so far been a success, ISRO’s chief, S. Somanath, has pointed out potential challenges, primarily concerning the unique lunar conditions. The moon’s surface is laden with a peculiar type of dust that could hinder the rover’s operations by jamming its moving parts. Moreover, the absence of air on the moon could cause this dust to stick to the rover’s materials, potentially affecting its functionality.
National and International Reactions
India’s media celebrated the event with headlines such as “The moon is Indian” and “India lights up the dark side of the moon”. The Times of India called the lunar landing the “most significant Indian scientific achievement.” Internationally, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson congratulated ISRO on the successful landing, stating, “We’re glad to be your partner on this mission!” on the platform X, previously known as Twitter.
Global Space Endeavors
While Chandrayaan-3 was making its mark, other space agencies and companies have also been active. Russia’s recent failed attempt with Luna-25 and the crash of Japanese company Ispace’s landing highlight the challenges of space exploration. In contrast, the U.S. has been focusing on its lunar human spaceflight program, Artemis. Houston-based Intuitive Machines and Pittsburgh-based Astrobotics are preparing to launch their lunar missions in the upcoming months.
A Partnership Beyond Borders
India’s prowess in space exploration isn’t just limited to its missions. The country’s collaboration on a global scale is evident in its partnerships. During Modi’s visit to the U.S. in June, he inked agreements with President Joe Biden to join the Artemis Accords, aiming to boost the collaboration between ISRO and NASA. The coming year is anticipated to witness joint endeavors to fly Indian astronauts to the International Space Station.
India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission to the moon’s south pole is more than just a national achievement; it symbolizes the boundless possibilities of space exploration and international collaboration. As countries continue to reach for the stars, endeavors like these shine a light on the beauty of scientific advancement and human determination.