India landed a robotic spacecraft on the moon on Wednesday, a feat that came just days after oneRussian vehicle crashedto the surface after igniting its engines for an extended period of time.
The Indian spacecraft, with no astronauts aboard, touched down around 8:30 a.m. ET near the moon's south pole, an area coveted by several countries because it contains water in the form of ice with permanent craters in the moon's shadow.
Shortly after the lander landed, the Indian Space Agency released a photo of the lunar surface taken from the spacecraft, but gave no details on the vehicle's status. On Wednesday evening he reported that the rover had been deployed with the spacecraft. "India took a walk on the moon!" The space agency releasedin the social networks. He added Thursday morning that "all activities are proceeding as planned." All systems are normal. The rover is said to be on the move for about 14 days to study the composition of the moon's soil and rocks.
The successful landing of the Chandrayaan-3 mission was a triumph for a country withgrowing ambitions in spaceand was cheered by over a billion people across the country. India became the fourth country to successfully land on the moon, after the United States, the Soviet Union and China, and the first to land near the South Pole.A similar mission failedat the last moment due to a software problem. But the mission successfully put a spacecraft into orbit around the moon, which has been mapping the lunar surface ever since.
"India is on the moon," declared Sreedhara Somanath, head of the Indian Space Research Organization, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi looked on as he waved an Indian flag.
In a video conference call from South Africa, where he is attending a BRICS summit, Modi told officials and journalists at ISRO headquarters that India is entering a historic auspicious moment. "My dear family, as we see history being made before us, our lives are blessed," he said. “This moment heralds an advanced India. These are moments of phenomenal invention and growth. … We made a promise on earth and kept it on the moon.”
"This achievement belongs to all of humanity and will help more missions from other countries in the future," Modi added.
The mission is one of severalintended for the lunar surface. Japan is expected to send a small spacecraft to the moon later this week to test its precision landing ability, a capability that would benefit future missions. And later this year, two private American companies working on behalf of NASA also plan to put robotic spacecraft on the lunar surface as part of the space agency's Artemis program.
Ultimately, NASA wants to put humans back on the moon for the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972. The goal is this timebuild a lasting presenceon and around the moon and use the moon's resources to sustain human life. NASA also intends to build a small space station called Gateway around the moon to help with the effort.
Modi has sought to boost India's space agency as a symbol of the country's place on the world stage. According to analysts, the space program will be used to boost the country's economy and growing technology sector. It has also tried to keep up with China, which has big ambitions in space and has already landed on the moon. India has also demonstrated its military prowess in space; In 2019, it hit a satellite with a missile, demonstrating its ability to target its opponents' space resources.
Unlike rivals like China and Russia, India sided with the United States and signed a space exploration treaty known as the Artemis Accords, a legal framework governing space activities. So far, nearly 30 countries have signed the agreement, which allows them to work with the United States on space missions and requires them to abide by a number of rules, such as publicly sharing scientific discoveries and creating "safe zones." ', where nations can work undisturbed in space. lunar surface.
In an interview after landing, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson called it "a significant achievement" and said, "We congratulate you and consider you our partners."
during oneSigning ceremony in JuneTaranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India to the United States, said, "India is a responsible space power and places the utmost importance on the peaceful and sustainable use of space." We are confident that the Artemis Accords will promote a rules-based approach to space ."
After the failed landing attempt in 2019, Modi vowed that the country would not surrender. "We were very close," he said. "Our determination to touch the moon has grown even stronger."
The United States has also launched a space race with China, which plans to send astronauts to the moon by 2030. NASA planned its first manned landing, known as the Artemis III mission, for 2025, but recently NASA officials said it would happen. it will likely be pushed back to 2026. If the schedule continues to be pushed back, Jim Free, NASA associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, said earlier this month that NASA "could end up flying another mission."
That could mean a trip around the moon without landing, but he did not give details. Nelson said in the interview: “NASA, as always, is checking all contingencies. But Artemis III is scheduled to land.”
Congress supported the Artemis program and secured mission funding, even as it cut other parts of the agency's budget. Competition with China could prompt some to put pressure on NASA to act quickly and ensure it has adequate funds.
NASA is still on track to send four astronauts on a mission around the moon by the end of 2024. This mission, known as Artemis II, followed a successful flight of the Orion spacecraft around the moon last year without people on board.
The possibility of finding water near the lunar south pole has intrigued space agencies and scientists around the world who are keen to collect it. Apparently, water is essential to human survival and an important part of any lunar settlement. But broken down into its components hydrogen and oxygen, it could also be used as rocket fuel.
Nelson said he is not concerned that India may reach the South Pole before the United States. "Space is international and NASA has embraced it with enthusiasm," he said. "That's why we're flying back to the moon on an international mission."
ISRO engineers worked to create a more robust design for the Chandrayaan-3 flight. It was launched on July 14 and flew smoothly into lunar orbit.
"IsThe mission goes as planned,the agency tweeted on Tuesday. “The systems are checked regularly. Navigation continues without setbacks.”
Gerry Shih contributed to this report.