India Achieves a Moon Landing That's Historic on 2 Fronts

It landed a spacecraft near the moon's south pole
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 23, 2023 8:17 AM CDT
India Becomes the 4th to Land a Spacecraft on the Moon
Journalists film the live telecast of spacecraft Chandrayaan-3 landing on the moon at ISRO's Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network facility in Bengaluru, India, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023.   (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

India on Wednesday landed a spacecraft near the moon's south pole, an uncharted territory that scientists believe could hold vital reserves of frozen water and precious elements. A lander with a rover inside touched down on the lunar surface at 6:04pm local time, sparking cheers and applause among the space scientists watching in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. It was a historic moment on two fronts: With the landing, India becomes the first country to touch down near the little-explored south pole region and the fourth to achieve a moon landing, joining the US, the former Soviet Union, and China, reports the AP.

India's Chandrayaan-3—"moon craft" in Sanskrit—took off from a launchpad in Sriharikota in southern India on July 14. The six-wheeled lander and rover module of Chandrayaan-3 is configured with payloads that will provide data to the scientific community on the properties of lunar soil and rocks, including chemical and elemental compositions.

India's previous attempt to land a robotic spacecraft near the moon's little-explored south pole ended in failure in 2019. It entered the lunar orbit but lost touch with its lander, which crashed while making its final descent to deploy a rover to search for signs of water. According to a failure analysis report submitted to the Indian Space Research Organization, the crash was caused by a software glitch.

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With nuclear-armed India emerging as the world's fifth-largest economy last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist government is eager to showcase India's rising standing as a technology and space powerhouse. A successful moon mission dovetails with Modi's image of an ascendant India asserting its place among the global elite and would help bolster his popularity ahead of a crucial general election next year.

(More moon landings stories.)

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