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The Chandrayaan-3 mission will make India the first country to reach the moon's south polar region in one piece and will add to the achievements of the country's own space programme.
DoorKumar day,Alex Travelli,Mujib MashalIKenneth Chang
Hari Kumar and Alex Travelli reported from Bengaluru, India, near the Chandrayaan-3 mission control.
Two visitors from India — a lander called Vikram and a rover called Pragyan — landed in the moon's south polar region on Wednesday. The two robots, from a mission called Chandrayaan-3, make India the first country ever to reach this part of the moon's surface in one piece — and only the fourth country ever to land on the moon.
"We have achieved a soft landing on the moon," said S. Somanath, the president of the Indian Space Research Organisation, after a roar echoed through the ISRO compound shortly after 10 p.m. local time. "India is on the moon."
The Indian public is already very proud of the achievements of the national space program, which has orbited the Moon and Mars and routinely launches satellites above Earth with far less funding than other spacefaring nations.
But the achievement of Chandrayaan-3 is perhaps even more beautiful as it comes at a particularly important time in the South Asian giant's diplomatic push as an aspiring power in the making.
Indian officials have advocated a multipolar world order in which New Delhi is seen as indispensable to global solutions. In space exploration, as in many other fields, the message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has been clear: the world will be a fairer place if India takes a leadership role, even as the world's most populous country works to meet its basic people's needs. need.
This assertiveness on the world stage is a central campaign message for Mr Modi, who will be re-elected for a third term early next year. He has often confused his image with that of India's rise as an economic, diplomatic and technological power.
Modi was physically present at mission control during other recent moments in the history of Indian space travel, including during a successful orbit around Mars in 2014 and a failed moon landing in 2019, where he consoled the scientists and hugged ISRO's head, who was crying.
But Chandrayaan-3's landing coincided with his trip to South Africa for a meeting between themgroup of countries known as BRICS. Modi's face beamed into the control room in Bengaluru during the final minutes of the landing, where he was seen on a split screen with the lander's animation.
"Chandrayaan-3's triumph reflects the aspirations and capabilities of 1.4 billion Indians," Mr Modi said after the landing was completed, calling the event "the moment of a new, evolving India."
In a country with a deep tradition of science, the excitement and anticipation surrounding the landing created a rare moment of unity in what had otherwise been so far.fraught times of sectarian tensiondriven by the divisive politics of Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist party.
Prayers for the success of the mission were offered in Hindu temples, Sikh gurdwaras and Muslim mosques. Schools held special ceremonies and hosted live viewings of the moon landingin official YouTube-videoof the event, which generated tens of thousands of views. Police in the city of Mumbai, India's commercial and entertainment hub, sent a message"special musical tribute"for the scientists as they performed a popular patriotic song.
"There is complete faith," the song says in Hindi. "We will succeed."
The Indian mission launched in July and followed a slow, fuel-conscious route to the moon. But Chandrayaan-3 outperformed its Russian counterpart, Luna-25, which was launched 12 days ago. Luna-25 was supposed to land on the moon on Monday in the same environment as the Indian spacecraft, butcrashed on Saturdayafter an engine failure.
That India managed to outdo Russia when the Soviet Union placed the first satellite, male and female, in space speaks to the divergent fortunes of the two countries' space programs.
Much of India's foreign policy in recent decades has been shaped by a delicate balancing act between Washington and Moscow, but the country has struggled more with an increasingly aggressive China on its borders. The two countries' militaries have been locked in a stalemate in the Himalayas for three years now, and vulnerability to a threat from China is a major driving factor in India's calculations.
The shared frustration with Beijing has only grownAmerican and Indian cooperation, also in the space whereChina is establishing itselfidirect competitionwith the United States.
And with the success of Chandrayaan-3, Mr. Modi can reap the benefits of leveraging India's scientific prowess to "more assertively assert Indian national interests on the global stage," said Bharat Karnad, professor emeritus of national security studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.
The control room in Bengaluru was a jubilant scene among engineers, scientists and technicians from the Indian Space Research Organisation.
After landing, members of ISRO management who piloted Chandrayaan-3 made it clear that the failure of their last lunar landing attempt in 2019 was a major driving force behind their work.
"From the day we started rebuilding our spacecraft after the Chandaryaan-2 experience, our team has been inhaling and exhaling Chandrayaan-3," said Kalpana Kalahasti, associate project manager for the mission.
Chandrayaan-3 has been orbiting the moon since early August. On Sunday, an engine fire pushed the lander into an elliptical orbit that passed as close as 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the surface. On Wednesday, as the spacecraft approached orbital nadir, at a speed of more than 6,000 kilometers per hour, a pre-programmed series of maneuvers began.
The craft's four engines fired again at the start of what ISRO called the "rough braking" part of the descent, with the rate of descent increasing. After 11.5 minutes, the lander was just over 7.2 miles above the surface and began rotating from a horizontal to vertical position as it continued its descent.
The spacecraft paused to hover about 150 meters above the surface for a few seconds, then resumed its downward journey until it gently touched down on the surface, about 600 kilometers from the South Pole. The landing sequence lasted about 19 minutes.
Chandrayaan-3 is a science mission slated for a two-week period where the sun will shine on the landing site and power the solar-powered lander and rover. The lander and rover will use a variety of instruments to perform thermal, seismic and mineralogical measurements.
India and ISRO have many more plans.
Although an Indian astronaut flew into orbit on a Soviet spacecraft in 1984, the country has never sent humans into space under its own power. India is preparing its first astronaut mission called Gaganyaan. But the project, which aims to send three Indian astronauts into space on the country's own spacecraft, has been delayed and ISRO has not announced a date.
The country is also working to launch a solar observatory called Aditya-L1 in early September and later an Earth observation satellite to be built in collaboration with NASA. India is also planning a follow-up to its recently completed Mars orbiter mission.
Somanath has described the current moment as a turning point where the country is opening up its space endeavors to private investors, after half a century of state monopoly, moving forward but with a "small budget" approach.
"These are very cost-effective missions," Mr Somanath said after landing. "No one in the world can do it like us."
When pressed by reporters on the price of Chandrayaan-3, Mr Somanath laughed: "I don't want to reveal such secrets, we don't want everyone else to become so cost effective!"
As ISRO will continue to explore the solar system, the performance ofIndia's private sectorcan soon attract so much attention. A younger generation of aerospace engineers,inspired by SpaceX, has started for himself. While ISRO's budget was less than $1.5 billion last fiscal year, the size of India's private space economy is already at least $6 billion and is expected to triple by 2025.
And the pace of change is accelerating. The Modi government wants India to harness the entrepreneurial energy of the private sector to put more satellites and investments in space – and faster.
On the moon, Vikram and Pragyan would get to work, with the rover possibly rolling to the lunar surface in the next few hours or sometime on Thursday, Mr. Somanath said. The landing site, on a plateau south of Manzinus Crater and west of Boguslawsky Crater, is at about the same latitude as Earth's edge of Antarctica.
So far, spacecraft have successfully landed on the moon, closer to the equator. The polar regions are exciting because there is frozen water at the bottom of permanently shadowed craters. If such water can be found and extracted in sufficient quantities, astronauts can use it for future space exploration.
The moon's south pole is the intended destination for astronauts to visit the moon as part of NASA's Artemis program, as well as upcoming Chinese and Russian missions. In the shorter term, as many as three robotic missions, one from Japan and two from private American companies partnering with NASA, could go to the moon later this year.
But in Bengaluru, Mr. Somanath after the launch that India had its eyes on worlds beyond the moon.
"It is very difficult for any country to achieve this. But it succeeded in just two attempts," he said. "It gives confidence to land on Mars and maybe Venus and other planets, maybe asteroids."
Kumar dayis a journalist in the New Delhi office. In 1997 he joined The Times. My Om Hari Kumar
Alex Travelliis a correspondent for The Times, based in New Delhi, covering business and economic affairs in India and the rest of South Asia. He previously worked as an editor and correspondent for The Economist. Mere om Alex Travelli
Mujib Mashalis The Times bureau chief for South Asia. Born in Kabul, he wrote for magazines such as The Atlantic, Harper's and Time before joining The Times. Mere Om Mujib Mashal
Kenneth Changhas been with The Times since 2000 and writes about physics, geology, chemistry and the planets. Before becoming a science writer, he was a graduate student whose research concerned the control of chaos. More about Kenneth Chang
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'India is on the Moon': Lander's success moves nation to next space chapter. Aug. 23, 2023 Updated Wed., Aug. 23, 2023 at 8:56 p.m. BENGALURU, India – Two visitors from India – a lander named Vikram and a rover named
The automated landing boosted India's increasingly sophisticated space program to the level of "space superpower," making it only the fourth nation, after the United States, China and the former Soviet Union, to land an operational spacecraft on the moon and the first to reach the south polar region.What did India land on the moon? ›
India has landed its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the moon, becoming only the fourth nation ever to accomplish such a feat. The mission could cement India's status as a global superpower in space.How long will Chandrayaan-3 stay on moon? ›
Chandrayaan 3 successfully soft landed on the south pole of the moon on August 23 and the exit process of Pragyan rover which was in the belly of Vikram lander has begun. Now for the 14 days, which is equivalent to one lunar day, Pragyan will carry out a series of experiments on the surface of the moon.Is Chandrayaan 1 success or failure? ›
After almost a year due to several technical issues and contact failure on August 29, 2009, the ISRO officially declared the mission over. Chandrayaan operated for 312 days against the planned two years but was successful by achieving 95% of its planned objectives.