India safely lands Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft near moon’s south pole in historic moment

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An Indian spacecraft landed on the moon on Wednesday, the space agency said, in a mission seen as crucial to lunar exploration and India’s standing as a space power, just days after a similar Russian lander crashed.

For India, the successful landing marks its emergence as a space power as the government looks to spur investment in private space launches and related satellite-based businesses.

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People across the country were glued to television screens and said prayers as the spacecraft approached the surface.

The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft landed on the lunar south pole, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said. This was India’s second attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon and comes less than a week after Russia’s Luna-25 mission failed.

Chandrayaan means “moon vehicle” in Hindi and Sanskrit. In 2019, ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 mission successfully deployed an orbiter but its lander crashed.

On Wednesday, ISRO said it was all set to activate the automatic landing sequence of the spacecraft, triggering the algorithm that will take over once it reaches the designated position and help it land.

The Chandrayaan-3 is expected to remain functional for two weeks, running a series of experiments including a spectrometer analysis of the mineral composition of the lunar surface.

“Landing on the south pole (of the moon) would actually allow India to explore if there is water ice on the moon. And this is very important for cumulative data and science on the geology of the moon,” said Carla Filotico, a partner and managing director at consultancy SpaceTec Partners.

A few hours before the scheduled landing, the mood was upbeat at the spacecraft command center on the outskirts of Bengaluru as ISRO officials and scientists hunched over massive screens monitoring the lander.

Anticipation before the landing was feverish, with banner headlines across Indian newspapers and news channels running countdowns to the landing.

Prayers were held at places of worship across the country, and schoolchildren waved the Indian tricolor as they waited for live screenings of the landing.

Children gathered on the banks of the Ganga river, considered holy by Hindus, to pray for a safe landing, and mosques in several places offered prayers.

At a Sikh temple, known as a gurdwara, in the capital New Delhi, Petroleum Minister Hardeep Singh Puri also offered prayers for Chandrayaan.

“Not just economic, but India is achieving scientific and technological progress as well,” Puri told reporters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi watched the landing from South Africa, where he is attending the BRICS summit.

Rough terrain makes a south pole landing difficult, and a first landing is historic. The region’s ice could supply fuel, oxygen and drinking water for future missions.

For India, a successful moon landing marks its emergence as a space power as Modi’s government looks to spur investment in private space launches and related satellite-based businesses.

Read more:

Explainer: Why are space agencies racing to the moon’s south pole?

India’s moon landing anticipation builds up after Russia’s crash

Russia’s Luna-25 space craft has smashed into the moon

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