Modi: “India is on the Moon”

Modi: “India is on the Moon”

India became just the fourth country to successfully land a spacecraft on the Moon today. Chandrayaan-3’s soft-landing marked the first success since 2019 in six tries by three space agencies, a commercial company, and a non-profit. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared “India is on the Moon” and cheered the success as belonging to “all of humanity.”

The Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO, broke the jinx that bedeviled five earlier attempts to land near the Moon’s South Pole over the past four years. Chandrayaan-3 touched down at 8:33 am EDT (18:03 India Standard Time) near the coordinates 69.37 S, 32.35 E. The propulsion module remains in lunar orbit.

About two hours later, ISRO began posting images taken during descent and after landing and confirmed two-way communications between the probe and ISRO’s Mission Operations Complex (MOX).

Only the Soviet Union, the United States and China have successfully soft-landed robotic spacecraft on the Moon and only the United States has sent astronauts there. The Soviet and U.S. soft-landing missions date back to the 1960s and 1970s, although the United States and others have sent orbiters and impactors since then. China has soft-landed three spacecraft there in the past decade, a sample return mission and two lander/rovers. One of the latter is the first and so far only probe to land on the far side of the Moon.

India joins the list of “firsts” on the Moon with Chandrayaan-3 — the first probe to land near the Moon’s South Pole. The South Pole is of significant interest because U.S. instruments confirmed the presence of water there, likely remnants of comet impacts over the eons.  One of those instruments, the Moon Mineralogical Mapper, was on India’s first lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-1. Chandrayaan-2 was an orbiter/lander/rover. The orbiter worked well and is still functioning today, but the lander/rover crashed in 2019.

India was determined to try again and is celebrating that success today. Chandrayaan-3 is a lander/rover that is intended to operate for about one lunar day (14 Earth days) while sunlight is available to power its solar arrays. Like their predecessors, the lander is named Vikram after Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India’s space program, and the rover is Pragyan (Wisdom).

ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander. Credit: ISRO

ISRO livestreamed the landing from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre with video showing the exuberant crowd after touchdown was achieved.

ISRO staff cheer the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the Moon, August 23, 2023. Screengrab.

Modi joined the celebration virtually, emphasizing that the landing is good news for all the world.

Speaking mostly in Hindi, Modi did declare in English “India is now on the Moon” and spoke about its significance on the global stage: “This success belongs to all of humanity and it will help Moon missions by other countries in the future. I am confident that all countries in the world including those from the global South are capable of achieving such feats. We can all aspire for the Moon and beyond.”

The U.S. State Department and NASA were among the many well-wishers offering congratulations.

NASA and India have a long history of space cooperation, including the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar or NISAR mission scheduled for launch next year for observing the Earth’s land and ice-covered regions. India also recently signed the Artemis Accords that set principles for countries to work together effectively on the Moon.

Today’s success follows five failures since 2019: Israeli non-profit SpaceIL with its Beresheet lander (2019); ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 lander (2019); the Japanese space agency’s OMONTENASHI cubesat (2022); Japanese commercial company, ispace, with its HAKUTO-R M-1 in May 2023; and the Russian space agency’s Luna-25 four days ago.

Japan will try again on Friday EDT (Saturday in Japan) with the launch of the Japanese space agency’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM).

At least two U.S. commercial landers also are scheduled for launch this year, Astrobotic’s Peregrine and Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C. Another IM lander is on NASA’s books for launch this year, but is expected to slip to 2024. As part of the Artemis program, NASA plans to launch at least two commercial landers to the Moon every year through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program where NASA purchases services from commercial companies to deliver payloads to the lunar surface instead of building and launching them itself. Astrobotic tweeted its congratulations to ISRO.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.