Chandrayaan-3’s lander has touched down on the lunar surface, making India the first country to successfully land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole.
Millions watched on as the spacecraft landed on Wednesday – an unchartered territory for space exploration.
“This is a victory cry of a new India,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was seen waving the Indian flag as he watched the landing from South Africa, where he was attending 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.”
Scientists and officials clapped, cheered and hugged each other as the spacecraft landed.
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. People across the country were glued to television screens and said prayers as the spacecraft approached the surface.
Scientists believe the “dark side of the moon” could hold important reserves of frozen water and precious elements that could be transformed by future explorers into air and rocket fuel.
A lander with a rover inside orbited before touching down on the lunar surface, after an agonising wait for India’s space scientists in the southern city of Bengaluru.
The craft put down its Vikram lander shortly beforet 1.34pm UK time on Wednesday.
India’s Chandrayaan-3 – “moon craft” in Sanskrit – took off from a launchpad in Sriharikota in southern India on July 14, heading for the far side of the moon.
People crowded around televisions in offices, shops, restaurants and homes to watch the highly anticipated landing. 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.
The successful Chandrayaan-3 landing would be monumental in fueling curiosity and sparking a passion for exploration among youth, the Indian Space Research Organisation said.
“It generates a profound sense of pride and unity as we collectively celebrate the prowess of Indian science and technology. It will contribute to fostering an environment of scientific inquiry and innovation.”
The six-wheeled lander and rover module of Chandrayaan-3 is configured with payloads that would provide data to the scientific community on the properties of lunar soil and rocks, including chemical and elemental compositions.
India was making its second attempt in four years to join the United States, the Soviet Union and China in achieving the landmark landing.
India unexpectedly got into a race with Russia, which had planned to land its Luna-25 spacecraft in the same lunar region on Monday. But Luna-25 crashed into the moon after it spun into an uncontrolled orbit. 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.
Numerous other countries and private companies are in a race to successfully land a spacecraft on the lunar surface. In April, a Japanese company’s spacecraft apparently crashed while attempting to land on the moon. An Israeli nonprofit tried to achieve a similar feat in 2019, but its spacecraft was destroyed on impact.
With nuclear-armed India emerging as the world’s fifth largest economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist government is eager to show off the country’s prowess in security and technology.