Marking a monumental achievement, India has firmly established its status as a global space superpower by flawlessly executing the Chandrayaan-3 mission, which gracefully touched down on the uncharted southern pole of the moon on Wednesday.
Launched just last month, the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft orchestrated a remarkable landing on the lunar surface at approximately 8:34 a.m. ET.
This remarkable feat has propelled India to the ranks of an elite few, comprising Russia, the United States, and China, as the fourth nation to land on the moon successfully. Notably, India’s triumph stands out as it becomes the first country to achieve a lunar landing at one of the moon’s polar regions.
From the heart of South Africa’s Johannesburg, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessed this monumental achievement through a livestream. He was participating in the 15th BRICS summit of emerging markets.
Through the ISRO webcast, Modi extended his perspective on this achievement, stating, “India’s successful moon mission is not just India alone … this success belongs to all of humanity.” He further emphasized the universal significance of this accomplishment, stating, “We can all aspire for the moon and beyond.”
The occasion was celebrated at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s mission control room as they cheered the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s safe landing.
The lunar southern pole has gained immense exploration interest due to recent revelations about the presence of water ice on the moon. India’s previous attempt at a south pole landing, the Chandrayaan-2 mission in September 2019, was regrettably hindered by a software malfunction, resulting in a crash landing.
Wendy Cobb, a distinguished professor specializing in strategy and security studies at the U.S. Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, underlined the strategic importance of the lunar southern pole region. Cobb noted, “[The South Pole is] an exciting, historical, scientific and geologic area that a lot of countries are trying to get at that can serve as a base for future exploration.” Notably, the discovery of water on the moon’s southern pole holds the potential to fuel rockets and spacecraft, opening up new avenues for space exploration.
In the lead-up to the Chandrayaan-3 landing, Russia attempted its first lunar landing in nearly half a century with the Luna-25 mission. Regrettably, the mission experienced a setback as the spacecraft veered out of control and crashed into the lunar surface. Similarly, earlier this year, a Japanese endeavor by the company Ispace ended in disappointment when their attempted landing met a similar fate in the final moments.
India’s growing prowess in space has cemented its position as a prominent player on the global stage. Prime Minister Modi’s June visit to the United States was marked by strategic agreements with President Joe Biden, solidifying India’s participation in the Artemis Accords and fostering deeper collaboration between ISRO and NASA. The two space agencies are projected to cooperate on flying Indian astronauts to the International Space Station in the coming year.
Notably, India has achieved remarkable feats with a fraction of the budget compared to its global counterparts. In 2020, ISRO estimated the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s cost at around $75 million, showcasing their ability to accomplish more with fewer resources. The mission’s launch was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, eventually lifting off in July 2023 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.