'India is on the moon': Lander's success propels nation into next space chapter (2023)



The Chandrayaan-3 mission will make India the first country to reach the Moon's south polar region in one piece and will add to the achievements of the country's own space program.

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'India is on the moon': Lander's success propels nation into next space chapter (1)

Portakumar day,Alex Travelli,Mujib MashalEmKenneth Chang

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

Two visitors from India - a lander called Vikram and a rover called Pragyan - landed in the moon's south polar region on Wednesday. The two robots, from a mission called Chandrayaan-3, 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 achieved a smooth moon landing," said S. Somanath, president of the Indian Space Research Organization, after a loud boom echoed through the ISRO complex shortly after 6 pm. local time. “India is on the moon.”

The Indian public is already very proud of the achievements of the national space program, which has orbited the Moon and Mars and routinely launches satellites above Earth with far less funding than other space travel nations.

But the achievement of Chandrayaan-3 is perhaps even more beautiful, as it comes at a particularly important moment in the South Asian giant's diplomatic push as an aspiring power in the making.









India successfully lands spacecraft on lunar surface

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

The height is reduced from 800 meters. And we're getting closer and closer to the lunar surface. He put a painting for the exact day. He the. People applaud. From the Secretary and Chairman of the Department of Space, Isro Somnath. Am I right. It's all countries in the world. Including those from the Global South. They are capable of such performance. We can all strive. Part of the moon and beyond.

'India is on the moon': Lander's success propels nation into next space chapter (6)

Indian officials have championed a multipolar world order in which New Delhi is seen as indispensable to global solutions. In space exploration, as in many other fields, the message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has been clear: the world will be a fairer place if India takes a leading role, even now the world's most populous country works to satisfy the basic needs of your people. it needs.

Such assertiveness on the world stage is a central campaign message for Modi, who will be re-elected for a third term early next year. He often confused his image with that of India's rise as an economic, diplomatic and technological power.

Modi has been physically present at mission control during other recent moments in Indian space travel history, including during a successful Mars orbit in 2014 and a failed Moon landing in 2019, where he comforted scientists and embraced ISRO chief she was crying.

But the landing of Chandrayaan-3 coincided with his trip to South Africa for a meeting of thegroup of countries known as BRICS. Modi's face flashed in the control room in Bengaluru during the final minutes of landing, where he was seen in a split-screen animation of the lander.

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



In a country with a deep scientific tradition, the excitement and anticipation surrounding the landing created a rare moment of unity in what had otherwise been so far.difficult times of sectarian tensionsfueled by the divisive policies of Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist party.

Prayers were offered for the success of the mission in Hindu temples, Sikh Gurdwaras and Muslim mosques. Schools held special ceremonies and live viewings of the moon landingan official YouTube videoof the event, which generated tens of millions of views. The police band of the city of Mumbai, commercial and entertainment center of India, sent a message“special musical tribute”to the scientists, while singing a popular patriotic song.

“There is complete faith,” says the song in Hindi. "We will succeed."

The Indian mission launched in July and followed a slow, fuel-conscious route to the moon. But Chandrayaan-3 outperformed its Russian counterpart, Luna-25, launched 12 days ago. Luna-25 was supposed to land on the moon on Monday in the same environment as the Indian spacecraft, butfell on saturdayafter an engine failure.

The fact that India managed to surpass Russia, which when the Soviet Union put the first satellite, male and female, into space speaks to the divergent fates of the two countries' space programs.

Much of India's foreign policy over the past few decades has been shaped by a delicate balance between Washington and Moscow, but the country has struggled most with an increasingly aggressive China on its borders. The two countries' armies have been deadlocked in the Himalayas for three years, and vulnerability to a threat from China is a major factor in India's calculations.

The frustration shared with Beijing has only increasedAmerican and Indian cooperation, also in space, whereChina is settling downemdirect competitionwith the United States.

And with the success of Chandrayaan-3, Modi can reap the benefits of leveraging India's scientific prowess to "more confidently assert Indian national interests on the global stage," says Bharat Karnad, emeritus professor of national security studies at the Center for Political Research. in New Delhi.

The control room in Bengaluru became a happy scene among the Indian Space Research Organization's engineers, scientists and technicians.

After landing, ISRO leadership members piloting Chandrayaan-3 made it clear that the failure of their last lunar landing attempt, in 2019, was the main driving force behind their work.

“From the day we started rebuilding our spacecraft after the Chandaryaan-2 experience, our team was breathing in and out of Chandrayaan-3,” said Kalpana Kalahasti, associate project director for the mission.

'India is on the moon': Lander's success propels nation into next space chapter (7)'India is on the moon': Lander's success propels nation into next space chapter (8)'India is on the moon': Lander's success propels nation into next space chapter (9)'India is on the moon': Lander's success propels nation into next space chapter (10)

Chandrayaan-3 has been orbiting the Moon since early August. On Sunday, an engine fire pushed the lander into an elliptical orbit that passed within 15 miles of the surface. On Wednesday, as the probe approached the orbital nadir, traveling at more than 6,000 kilometers per hour, a pre-programmed sequence of maneuvers began.

The craft's four engines fired again at the beginning of what ISRO called the "hard braking" part of the descent, with the rate of descent increasing. After 11.5 minutes, the lander was just over 11 kilometers above the surface and began to rotate from a horizontal to a vertical position as it continued its descent.

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

Chandrayaan-3 is a science mission, scheduled for a period of two weeks, during which the sun will shine on the landing site and provide power for the solar-powered lander and rover. The lander and rover will use a variety of instruments to perform thermal, seismic and mineralogical measurements.

India and ISRO have a lot more plans.

Although an Indian astronaut flew into orbit in a Soviet spacecraft in 1984, the country has never sent humans into space on its own. 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, an Earth observation satellite to be built in partnership with NASA. India is also planning to continue its recently completed Mars orbital mission.



Somanath described the current moment as a turning point, with the country opening up its space efforts to private investors, after half a century of state monopoly progress, but with a "small budget" approach.

“These are very cost-effective missions,” Somanath said after landing. “Nobody in the world can do it like we can.”

When reporters pressed about the cost of the Chandrayaan-3, Mr Somanath laughed, "I won't reveal these secrets, we don't want everyone else to become so cost-effective!"

As ISRO continues to explore the solar system, the performance of theIndia's private sectorcould soon attract so much attention. A younger generation of aerospace engineers,inspired by SpaceX, started by themselves. While ISRO's budget was less than $1.5 billion in the last fiscal year, 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 – and faster.

On the Moon, Vikram and Pragyan would get to work, with the rover possibly rolling down to the lunar surface in the next few hours or sometime on Thursday, Somanath said. The landing site, on a plateau south of Manzinus Crater and west of Boguslawsky Crater, is at approximately the same latitude as the edge of the Earth in Antarctica.

So far, spacecraft have successfully landed on the Moon, closer to the equator. The polar regions are intriguing because there is frozen water at the bottom of permanently shadowed craters. If that water can be found and extracted in sufficient quantities, astronauts could use it for future space explorations.

The moon's south pole is the intended destination for astronauts who might visit the moon as part of NASA's Artemis program, as well as on upcoming Chinese and Russian missions. In the short term, up to three robotic missions, one from Japan and two from private US companies in partnership with NASA, could go to the Moon later this year.

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

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


kumar dayis a reporter for the New Delhi bureau. In 1997 he joined The Times. Learn more about Hari Kumar

Alex Travelliis a correspondent for The Times, based in New Delhi, covering business and economic affairs in India and the rest of South Asia. Previously, he worked as an editor and correspondent for The Economist. Learn more about Alex Travelli

Mujib Mashalis The Times' South Asia bureau chief. Born in Kabul, he wrote for magazines including The Atlantic, Harper's and Time before joining The Times. More about Mujib Mashal

Kenneth Changhas been with The Times since 2000 and writes about physics, geology, chemistry and planets. Before becoming a science writer, he was a graduate student whose research dealt with chaos control. Learn more about Kenneth Chang

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