India lands spacecraft near moon’s south pole in world first, joining elite club

NEW DELHI – India made history on Wednesday by becoming the first country in the world to land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole, an unexplored area that scientists believe may contain vital reserves of frozen water, and the fourth country to reach the moon. landing

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessed a historic landing from South Africa, where he is attending the BRICS Summit. “India is now on the moon. India has reached the South Pole of the Moon – no other country has done so. We are witnessing history,” Modi said while waving the tricolor Indian flag.

Somnath, chairman of the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation, said the rover would slide down from the lander within hours to a day and conduct experiments, including analyzing the mineral composition of the lunar surface.

The mission is expected to last for two weeks, he said. He also said that India will next attempt a manned mission to the moon.

India’s successful landing came just days after the Russian Luna-25 spacecraft, aimed at the same region of the moon, went into an uncontrolled orbit and crashed. It would be Russia’s first successful moon landing in 47 years. The head of Russia’s state-controlled space corporation Roskosmos attributed the failure to a lack of experience due to a long hiatus in lunar research after the last Soviet mission to the moon in 1976.

Excited and anxious, people across India, the world’s most populous country, are huddled around televisions in offices, shops, restaurants and homes. Thousands of people prayed for the success of the mission with oil lamps on Tuesday at riverbanks, temples and religious sites, including the holy city of Varanasi in northern India.

After the landing, congratulations poured in from around the world, cementing India’s emergence as a modern space power.

“Your success will spark the imaginations of people around the world and illuminate the future,” the US State Department’s Office of Ocean and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs X, formerly known as Twitter, announced on Twitter.

“Unbelievable!” European Space Agency Director General Josef Aschbacher tweeted. “I’m very impressed.”

Former NASA science mission manager Thomas Zurbuchen, who now works at ETH Zurich, Switzerland’s public research university, where he leads the space initiative, said he was proud of the achievement.

India’s Chandrayaan-3 — Sanskrit for “moon ship” — on July 14. took off from a launch site in Sriharikota in southern India. Its landing marks a significant step forward in the country’s space exploration, the Indian Space Research Organization said in a statement. earlier.

Many countries and private companies are interested in the South Pole region because the permanently shadowed craters may hold frozen water that could support future astronaut missions.

Chandrayaan-3’s six-wheeled lander and rover module are configured with payloads that would provide the scientific community with data on lunar soil and rock properties, including chemical and elemental compositions.

India’s previous attempt to land a robotic spacecraft near the little-explored south pole of the Moon ended in failure in 2019. It entered lunar orbit, but lost contact with its lander, which crashed during the final landing of the rover to search for signs of the moon. water. According to the fault analysis report submitted by ISRO, the crash was caused by a software glitch.

140 million USD Mission 2019 was designed to study permanently shadowed lunar craters believed to contain water bodies, and was confirmed by India’s Chandrayaan-1 orbital mission in 2008.

Expectations for a successful landing have intensified after Russia’s failed attempt and India’s regional rival China has achieved new milestones in space. In May, China launched a three-person crew to its orbiting space station and hopes to put astronauts on the moon by the end of the decade. Relations between India and China have been strained since border clashes in the 2020s.

Many countries and private companies are racing to successfully land a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. In April, a Japanese company’s spacecraft apparently crashed while trying to land on the moon. An Israeli nonprofit attempted a similar feat in 2019, but its spacecraft was destroyed by impact.

Japan plans to launch an X-ray telescope mission to the moon over the weekend, and two US companies are also competing to land rovers on the moon by the end of the year, including one at the South Pole. . In the coming years, NASA plans to land astronauts on the South Pole of the Moon using water frozen in the craters.

Pallava Bagla, a science writer and co-author of books on India’s space exploration, said Russia’s failure a few days ago had put India off. He also said lessons from the failed Indian mission four years ago were incorporated and a flawless mission was carried out on Wednesday.

“The Indians were not derailed. They continued the journey with strength and confidence which paid off,” he said.

Godfrey Kemp

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