India has claimed its spot in lunar history as the first nation to touch down a craft near the Moon’s southern pole. The momentous achievement was marked by wild cheers from mission control technicians as the unmanned Chandrayaan-3, meaning “Mooncraft” in Sanskrit, landed precisely at 6:04 pm India time. This victory comes after a recent Russian probe met with failure in the same region, and four years since India’s previous lunar attempt fell short at the final stage.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, waving the Indian flag in a live broadcast, heralded the triumph not only for India but for all of humanity. “India’s successful moon mission is not just India’s alone,” he announced. “This success belongs to all of humanity.”
The Chandrayaan-3 mission had captivated global attention from the moment it launched nearly six weeks ago. The mission’s significance was underlined by politicians who held Hindu prayer rituals for its success, and schoolchildren who witnessed the historic landing through live broadcasts in classrooms.
Unlike the swift Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s, which reached the Moon within days, Chandrayaan-3 took a more leisurely route. India utilized less powerful rockets than those used by the United States, which required the probe to orbit Earth several times to gather sufficient speed for its month-long lunar journey.
Vikram, the lander which detached from its propulsion module a week ago, has been beaming images of the lunar surface since entering lunar orbit on August 5. With its successful landing, Vikram will pave the way for a solar-powered rover to explore the Moon’s surface and relay data back to Earth during its two-week operational span.
India’s ascent in space exploration has been notable, closing in on milestones set by space giants like the United States and Russia, all while keeping costs relatively low. With a cost of $74.6 million, the Chandrayaan-3 mission showcases India’s adeptness at cost-effective space engineering, owing to its practice of adapting existing technology and the prowess of its highly skilled engineers.
India’s space program has been on an upward trajectory since its maiden lunar orbiter mission in 2008. In 2014, India achieved another feat as the first Asian nation to put a craft in orbit around Mars. Further demonstrating its ambition, India is slated to launch a three-day crewed mission into Earth’s orbit by the following year.
This triumphant landing follows the setback of the Chandrayaan-2 lunar module losing contact moments before its intended landing in 2019. With the success of Chandrayaan-3’s mission to explore the uncharted lunar south pole, India solidifies its pivotal role in advancing scientific knowledge and shaping the future of lunar exploration.