India Historically Lands Spacecraft Near Moon’s South Pole
By Adedapo Adesanya
India on Wednesday became the first nation to land a spacecraft near the Moon’s south pole and the fourth country – after Russia, the United States, and China – to land on the moon.
This has been regarded as a historic triumph for the world’s second most populous nation and its ambitious, cut-price space programme.
The unmanned Chandrayaan-3, which means Mooncraft in Sanskrit, touched down at 6:04 pm India time (1:34 pm Nigerian time).
Its landing comes days after a Russian probe crashed in the same region and four years since the previous Indian attempt failed at the last moment.
According to agency reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi smiled broadly and waved an Indian flag on a live broadcast to announce the mission’s success as a triumph that extended beyond his country’s borders.
“On this joyous occasion, I would like to address the people of the world,” said Modi from the sidelines of the BRICS diplomatic summit in South Africa.
“India’s successful moon mission is not just India’s alone,” he added. “This success belongs to all of humanity.”
The Chandrayaan-3 mission has captivated public attention since launching nearly six weeks ago in front of thousands of cheering spectators.
Politicians staged Hindu prayer rituals to wish for the mission’s success, and schoolchildren followed the final moments of the landing from live broadcasts in classrooms.
Chandrayaan-3 took much longer to reach the Moon than the Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s, which arrived in a matter of days.
India used rockets much less powerful than the ones the US used back then, meaning the probe had to orbit the Earth several times to gain speed before embarking on its month-long journey.
The lander, Vikram, which means “valour” in Sanskrit, detached from its propulsion module last week and has been sending images of the Moon’s surface since entering lunar orbit on August 5.
Now that Vikram has landed, a solar-powered rover will explore the surface and transmit data to Earth over its two-week lifespan.
With the $74.6 million mission, India is closing in on milestones set by global space powers such as the United States, China, and Russia, conducting many of its missions at much lower price tags.
The South Asian nation has a comparatively low-budget space programme, but it has grown considerably in size and momentum since it first sent a probe to orbit the Moon in 2008.