India Becomes First Nation to Land on Moon’s South Pole


India on Wednesday made history as it became the first country in the world to land a spacecraft near the moon’s South Pole, an uncharted territory that scientists believe could hold vital reserves of frozen water, and the fourth country to achieve a moon landing.

A lander with a rover inside touched down on the lunar surface at 6:04 local time, sparking cheers and applause among the space scientists watching in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. After a failed attempt in 2019, India now joins the United States, the Soviet Union and China in reaching this milestone.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi watched the historic landing from South Africa, where he is participating in the BRICS nation’s summit. “India is now on the moon. India has reached the south pole of the moon — no other country has achieved that. We are witnessing history,” Modi said as he waved the Indian tri-colored flag.

The safe touchdown by the Indian Space Research Organization comes only days after a Russian spacecraft en route to the same area failed during an orbital maneuver and crashed onto the lunar surface. The failure was a severe blow for Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency.

The Chandrayaan-3 landing, on the other hand, is a significant windfall for the world’s most populous nation, which has been seeking for more influence in the cosmos through both the government’s space agency and private investment. Only three other countries in history have accomplished controlled, or “soft,” lunar landings: the United States, China, and the former Soviet Union.

The moon’s South Pole has long piqued the interest of space agencies and scientists because the region’s shadowed craters are thought to hold higher concentrations of water ice than anywhere else on the lunar surface, making it critical for long-term human settlements on the moon.

NASA’s Artemis program, which wants to send astronauts to the moon, plans to land its Artemis III mission in 2025 in the south polar area.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson celebrated the landing in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“And congratulations to #India on being the 4th country to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon,” he wrote. “We’re glad to be your partner on this mission!”

India and Russia had been locked in a race to the lunar South Pole. The Luna-25 spacecraft that crashed was the first moon-landing spacecraft launched by Russia’s space agency in almost five decades. Roscosmos officials said Sunday they lost contact with the lander after it fired its engines in preparation for a descent to the surface.

The Chandrayaan-3 mission will undertake a number of surface scientific experiments, including mineral composition and seismic activity tests. The lander, which is about the size of an SUV, also transports a smaller rover. Both solar-powered ships are planned to stay on the moon for around two weeks.

The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft, launched on July 14, was India’s second attempt to settle on the moon’s South Pole. In 2019, a lunar orbiter was launched, but the Chandrayaan-2 lander and rover crashed into the lunar surface.

I'm a graduate of Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic Zaria, where I studied Business Administration and Management from 2014-2019. Presently, I work with TV360 Nigeria, as a journalist, producer and reporter. I'm so passionate on what I do.

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