India’s Soft Lunar Landing Marks Potential Breakthrough in Frozen Water Discovery

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NEW DELHI, Aug 23, (AP): India on Wednesday made history as it became the first country in the world to land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole, an uncharted territory that scientists believe could hold vital reserves of frozen water and precious elements, and the fourth country to achieve a moon landing.

Journalists film the live telecast of spacecraft Chandrayaan-3 landing on the moon at ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network facility in Bengaluru, India, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. India lands a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole, becoming the fourth country to touch down on the lunar surface. (AP)

A lander with a rover inside touched down on the lunar surface at 6:04 local time, sparking cheers and applause among the space scientists watching in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. After a failed attempt in 2019, India now joins the United States, the Soviet Union and China in reaching this milestone.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi watched the historic landing from South Africa, where he is participating in the BRICS nations summit. “India is now on the moon. India has reached the south pole of the moon – no other country has achieved that. We are witnessing history,” Modi said as he waved the Indian tricolored flag. S. Somnath, chairman of the state-run Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, said the rover will slide down a flap from the lander within hours or a day and conduct experiments, including an analysis of the mineral composition of the lunar surface. The mission is expected to remain functional for two weeks, he said. He also said India would next attempt a manned lunar mission. India’s successful soft landing comes just days after Russia’s Luna-25, which was aiming for the same lunar region, spun into an uncontrolled orbit and crashed.

It would have been the first successful Russian lunar landing after a gap of 47 years. Russia’s head of the state-controlled space corporation Roscosmos attributed the failure to the lack of expertise due to the long break in lunar research that followed the last Soviet mission to the moon in 1976. Excited and anxious, people across India, home to the world’s largest population, crowded around televisions in offices, shops, restaurants and homes. Thousands prayed Tuesday for the success of the mission with oil lamps on the river banks, temples and religious places, including the holy city of Varanasi in northern India. After the landing, congratulations poured in from around the world, cementing India’s emergence as a modern space power.

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