India has made history by becoming the first country to land near the moon’s south pole.
Successful touchdown: The unmanned Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft, which launched into space on July 14, successfully landed on the moon shortly after 8:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday.
The successful landing makes India the first country to land near the moon’s south pole and the fourth nation to soft-land on the moon, behind the U.S., the former Soviet Union and China.
“Signifcant step”: The spacecraft’s touchdown, operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), comes days after a Russian spacecraft crashed into the lunar surface trying to achieve the same feat. The Chandrayaan-3 was India’s second attempt at landing on the moon’s south pole — in 2019, its predecessor, the Chandrayaan-2 lander and rover, crashed into the lunar surface.
“This achievement marks a significant step forward for Indian Science, Engineering, Technology, and Industry, symbolizing our nation’s progress in space exploration,” the ISRO said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who tuned into the ISRO’s livestream from South Africa, where he is currently attending the BRICS summit, also celebrated the good news while waving the Indian flag.
“All the people of the world, the people of every country and region: India’s successful moon mission is not just India’s alone … this success belongs to all of humanity,” Modi said, according to CNBC. “We can all aspire for the moon, and beyond.”
Moon’s south pole: The moon’s south pole has been of interest to scientists due to the region’s shadowed craters that are believed to contain frozen ice, which is critical for having long-term human settlements on the moon. Scientists believe that the ice could be used as drinking water and can help create fuel and oxygen to sustain life.
The Chandrayaan-3’s lander, which carries a lunar rover, is designed to conduct a chemical analysis of the moon’s south pole surface, including tests focused on mineral composition. The lander, which is about the size of an SUV, is reportedly designed to operate on the moon for around two weeks.
NASA congratulates India: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson celebrated India’s successful landing in a recent X post.
“Congratulations ISRO on your successful Chandrayaan-3 lunar South Pole landing!” Nelson wrote. “And congratulations to #India on being the 4th country to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon. We’re glad to be your partner on this mission!”
NASA’s Artemis program reportedly aims to return astronauts to the moon in 2025.