"India is on the Moon": The success of Lander catapults the country into the next space chapter (2023)



The Chandrayaan-3 mission makes India the first country to reach the entire south polar region of the moon and contributes to the achievements of the country's local space program.

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"India is on the Moon": The success of Lander catapults the country into the next space chapter (1)

VonKumar-Tag,Alex Travelli,Mujib MashalsimKen Chang

Hari Kumar and Alex Travelli reported from Bengaluru, India near Chandrayaan-3 Mission Control.

Two visitors from India, a lander named Vikram and a rover named Pragyan, landed in the moon's south polar region on Wednesday. The two robots on a mission called Chandrayaan-3 will make India the first country to reach this part of the lunar surface in one piece and only the fourth country to land on the moon.

"We managed a smooth moon landing," said S. Somanath, President of the Indian Space Research Organization, after a loud bang shook the ISRO complex just after 6 p.m. local time. "India is overjoyed."

The Indian public is already proud of the achievements of the country's space program, which orbits the Moon and Mars and routinely sends satellites to Earth, with far less funding than other space nations.

But Chandrayaan-3's success could be even more gratifying, as it comes at a particularly crucial juncture in the South Asian giant's diplomatic push to become an ambitious rising power.









India successfully lands a spacecraft on the lunar surface

The Indian Space Research Organization's control room erupted in applause as the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft landed in the moon's south polar region.

From 800 meters the altitude decreases. And we're getting closer and closer to the surface of the moon. He hung a picture of the exact day. he the People applaud. From Space Minister and President Isro Somnath. I am confident. These are all countries in the world. Including those from the Global South. You are capable of such feats. We can all strive for it. Part of the moon and beyond.

"India is on the Moon": The success of Lander catapults the country into the next space chapter (6)

Indian officials advocate a multipolar world order in which New Delhi is seen as vital to global solutions. In space exploration, as in many other areas, the message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government was clear: the world will be a fairer place if India takes a leading role, even as the world's most populous country works to meet basic needs . needs of its people. it takes.

Such assertiveness on the world stage is a key campaign message for Modi, who is seeking re-election to a third term early next year. He has often confused his image with that of India's rise to economic, diplomatic and technological power.

Modi has been physically present at mission control at other times in India's space history recently, including during a successful orbit of Mars in 2014 and a failed moon landing in 2019, where he was seen comforting scientists and hugging the ISRO chief , who cried.

But the landing of Chandrayaan-3 coincided with its trip to South Africa for a meeting of theGroup of nations known as the BRICS. Modi's face appeared in the Bengaluru control room in the final minutes of landing, where it was shown in the split screen with the landing animation.

"The triumph of Chandrayaan-3 reflects the aspirations and capabilities of 1.4 billion Indians," Modi said after the landing was completed, declaring the event a "moment for a new and evolving India."



In a country with a deep scientific tradition, the excitement and anticipation surrounding the landing provided a rare moment of unity compared to what would otherwise have beentense times of sectarian tensionsfueled by the divisive policies of Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist party.

Prayers were prayed for in Hindu temples, Sikh gurdwaras and Muslim mosques for the success of the mission. Schools held special ceremonies and organized live observations of the moon landingan official YouTube videothe event that amassed tens of millions of visitors. Police from the city of Mumbai, India's commercial and entertainment hub, sent one"Special Musical Homage"to the scientists and sang a popular patriotic song.

"There is full faith," the song says in Hindi. "We will succeed."

The Indian mission launched in July and followed a slow and fuel-efficient path to the moon. However, Chandrayaan-3 surpassed its Russian counterpart Luna-25, which was launched 12 days ago. Luna-25 was supposed to land on the moon on Monday, in the same proximity as the Indian spacecraft, butfell on Saturdayafter an engine failure.

The fact that India managed to overtake Russia, which, like the Soviet Union, launched the first male and female satellites into space, shows the different fortunes of the two nations' space programs.

Much of India's foreign policy in recent decades has been marked by a delicate balance between Washington and Moscow, yet the country grapples with an increasingly aggressive China on its borders. Both countries' armed forces have been bogged down in the Himalayas for three years and vulnerability to a threat from China is a major factor in India's calculations.

Frustration shared with Beijing has only increasedCooperation between the United States and India, even in space, whereChina calms downemdirect competitionwith the United States.

And from the success of Chandrayaan-3, Modi can capitalize on building on India's scientific prowess to "more assertively assert India's national interests on the world stage," said Bharat Karnad, professor emeritus of national security studies at the Center for National Security. studies. Political research in New Delhi.

The Bengaluru control room became a scene of rejoicing among the engineers, scientists and technicians of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

In a post-landing speech, ISRO executives who directed Chandrayaan-3 made it clear that the failure of the last lunar landing attempt in 2019 was the main driving force behind their work.

"Since the day we began rebuilding our spacecraft after the Chandaryaan-2 experience, our team has been breathing in and out of Chandrayaan-3," said Kalpana Kalahasti, deputy project manager for the mission.

"India is on the Moon": The success of Lander catapults the country into the next space chapter (7)"India is on the Moon": The success of Lander catapults the country into the next space chapter (8)"India is on the Moon": The success of Lander catapults the country into the next space chapter (9)"India is on the Moon": The success of Lander catapults the country into the next space chapter (10)

Chandrayaan-3 has been orbiting the moon since early August. On Sunday, a failed engine pushed the lander into an elliptical orbit that missed the surface by less than 15 miles. As the spacecraft approached the bottom of its orbit at a speed of more than 6,000 kilometers per hour on Wednesday, it began a pre-programmed maneuver sequence.

The spacecraft's four engines restarted at the beginning of what ISRO called the "sudden stop" portion of the descent, accelerating the rate of descent. After 11.5 minutes, the lander was just over 7.2 kilometers above the surface and began to rotate from the horizontal to the vertical position as it continued to descend.

The probe stopped to hover about 150 meters above the surface for a few seconds, then continued its descent until it landed gently on the surface, about 600 kilometers from the South Pole. The landing sequence lasted about 19 minutes.

Chandrayaan-3 is a scientific mission planned to last two weeks. The sun will shine on the landing pad and power the lander and solar-powered rover. The lander and rover will use a variety of instruments to perform thermal, seismic and mineralogical measurements.

India and ISRO have many more plans in the works.

Although an Indian astronaut flew into orbit on a Soviet spacecraft in 1984, the country has never sent people into space alone. India is preparing its first astronaut mission called Gaganyaan. But the project, which aims to send three Indian astronauts into space on the country's own spacecraft, has been delayed and ISRO has not announced a date.

The country is also working to launch a solar observatory called Aditya-L1 in early September and later a jointly built Earth observation satellite with NASA. India also plans to continue its recently completed orbital mission to Mars.



Somanath described the current moment as a turning point, as the country opened up its space efforts to private investors after half a century of state monopoly made progress, albeit with "a streamlined mode of operation."

"These are very lucrative missions," said Somanath after landing. "Nobody in the world can do it as well as we can."

When reporters pressed him on the cost of Chandrayaan-3, Somanath laughed, "I'm not going to reveal those secrets, we don't want everyone else to become so profitable!"

As ISRO continues to explore the solar system, ISRO's achievements can be seenIndia's private sectorSoon it could draw so much attention. A younger generation of aerospace engineersinspired by SpaceX, began to set up his own business. While ISRO's budget for the last fiscal year was less than $1.5 billion, the size of India's private space economy is already at least $6 billion and is expected to triple by 2025.

And the pace of change is accelerating. The Modi government wants India to harness the entrepreneurial energy of the private sector to get more satellites and investment into space faster.

On the moon, Vikram and Pragyan were ready to begin work, with the rover likely to reach the lunar surface in the next few hours or sometime Thursday, according to Somanath. The landing site, on a plateau south of Manzinus Crater and west of Boguslawsky Crater, is roughly at the same latitude as the rim of Antarctica on Earth.

So far, spacecraft have successfully landed on the moon closest to the equator. The polar regions are fascinating because of the frozen water at the bottom of craters that are permanently shadowed. If this water can be found and extracted in sufficient quantities, astronauts can use it for future space exploration.

The lunar south pole is the designated destination for astronauts who may visit the moon as part of NASA's Artemis program and also for upcoming Chinese and Russian missions. In the short term, as many as three robotic missions could fly to the moon later this year, one from Japan and two from private American companies working with NASA.

But in Bangalore, after launch, Somanath hinted that India had its eye on worlds beyond the moon.

“It is very difficult for any nation to achieve this. But we made it with just two tries," he said. "It gives you the confidence to land on Mars and maybe Venus and other planets, maybe asteroids."


Kumar-TagHe is a reporter for the New Delhi office. He joined the Times in 1997. Learn more about Hari Kumar

Alex TravelliHe is the Times New Delhi correspondent, covering economic and business affairs in India and the rest of South Asia. He previously worked as an editor and correspondent for The Economist. Find out more about Alex Travelli

Mujib Mashalis the director of the Times South Asia bureau. Born in Kabul, he wrote for magazines such as The Atlantic, Harper's and Time before joining The Times. More about Mujib Mashal

Ken ChangHe has been with The Times since 2000, writing on physics, geology, chemistry and planets. Before becoming a science writer, he was a graduate student whose research focused on the control of chaos. More information about Kenneth Chang

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