India Becomes First Nation To Land Spacecraft Near The Moon’s South Pole

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India on Wednesday became the first nation to land a craft near the Moon’s south pole, a historic triumph for the world’s most populous nation, and its ambitious, cut-price space program. The unmanned Chandrayaan-3, which means “Mooncraft” in Sanskrit, touched down at 6:04 pm India time (12:34 GMT) as mission control technicians cheered wildly and embraced their colleagues.

Its landing comes days after a Russian probe crashed in the same region and four years since the previous Indian attempt failed at the last moment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi smiled broadly and waved an Indian flag on a live broadcast to announce the mission’s success as a triumph that extended beyond his country’s borders.

“On this joyous occasion I would like to address the people of the world,” said Modi from the sidelines of the BRICS diplomatic summit in South Africa. “India’s successful moon mission is not just India’s alone,” he added. “This success belongs to all of humanity.”

The Chandrayaan-3 mission has captivated public attention since launching nearly six weeks ago in front of thousands of cheering spectators. Politicians staged Hindu prayer rituals to wish for the mission’s success and school children followed the final moments of the landing from live broadcasts in classrooms.

Chandrayaan-3 took much longer to reach the Moon than the Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s; which arrived in a matter of days. India used rockets much less powerful than the ones the United States used back then; meaning the probe had to orbit the Earth several times to gain speed before embarking on its month-long journey.

The lander, Vikram, which means “valour” in Sanskrit, detached from its propulsion module last week and has been sending images of the Moon’s surface since entering lunar orbit on August 5. Now that Vikram has landed, a solar-powered rover will explore the surface and transmit data to Earth over its two-week lifespan.

 

 

 

 

 

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