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India spacecraft first to land on moon's south pole

Published August 23, 2023last updated August 23, 2023

The successful landing marks India's emergence as a space power. It makes India the fourth country after the US, the former Soviet Union, and China to achieve the feat and the first to land near the moon's south pole.

Arun Haryani, an enthusiast with his body painted in tri-colours reacts as he holds up a model of LVM3 M4 in Ahmedabad
Space enthusiasts in India crowded around televisions in offices, shops, restaurants and homes to watch the landingImage: Amit Dave/REUTERS

India  on Wednesday became the first country to land a spacecraft near the moon's south pole.

"India is on the moon," S. Somanath, chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said as the Chandrayaan-3's Vikram lander made a "soft landing" on the lunar surface.

ISRO later tweeted that the rover had exited the spacecraft to explore the lunar surface. 

"This is a victory cry of new India," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who watched the final moment before touchdown from Johannesburg where he is attending the BRICS summit.

Modi expresses joy over India's successful moon landing

Modi hoped mission success would spur investment in private space launches and related satellite-based businesses.

Joy as spacecraft touch down

The successful landing comes just days after Russia's Luna-25 spacecraft crashed into the moon after losing control.

India's previous attempt to land on the moon failed in 2019, but on Wednesday, scientists and officials clapped at the country's cheered and hugged each other as the spacecraft landed.

DW's bureau chief in New Delhi, Amrita Cheema, reported that the response in India was "euphoric."

"India has a young, vibrant and very aspirational population and they take great pride to be part of a country which is going towards the future and able to compete at the international level and part of the big league even in its space program," she said. 

The mission was launched nearly six weeks ago, and people across India were glued to television screens and said prayers as the spacecraft approached the surface.

Chandrayaan-3's mission

The south pole of the moon has potential as a source of oxygen, fuel, and water for future missions and a moon colony.

Chandrayaan-3 is expected to explore it for two weeks, running a series of experiments to determine the mineral composition of the lunar surface.

Several countries, including the United States, China, Israel and Japan, aim to set up a base on the moon.

Only the United States, China and the former Soviet Union have previously achieved a controlled landing on the lunar surface.

Other space agencies took note

The European Space Agency (ESA) director general Josef Aschbacher was among the first to congratulate India's ISRO.

"What a way to demonstrate new technologies AND achieve India's first soft landing on another celestial body. Well done, I am thoroughly impressed," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Senator Bill Nelson, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)  administrator, also congratulated India.

"We're glad to be your partner on this mission!" he wrote on social media.  

NASA and ESA provided tracking support to the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

lo/fb (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Indian rocket soars to the moon