Moon-bound milestone: India creates history with Chandrayaan-3's South Pole landing (PHOTO)

World Materials 31 August 2023 12:35 (UTC +04:00)

On 23 August 2023, India carved out a unique niche in the annals of space exploration by becoming the first nation to soft-land near the Moon's elusive South Pole. This achievement ranks India as the fourth country to soft-land on the Moon, following the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China.

The accomplishment came through Chandrayaan-3, the latest in the Chandrayaan ("Mooncraft") series spearheaded by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Comprising a lander named Vikram and a rover dubbed Pragyan, along with a propulsion module, Chandrayaan-3 showcases India's burgeoning space capabilities.

Initiating its journey on 14 July 2023, Chandrayaan-3 underwent multiple manoeuvres spanning approximately 40 days before reaching lunar proximity. Named in honour of Indian space pioneer Vikram Sarabhai, the Vikram lander is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments, including the Chandra's Surface Thermophysical Experiment (ChaSTE) and an Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity (ILSA).

Also, the Pragyan rover, whose name signifies 'wisdom,' carries the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) for elemental analysis. An additional experiment, Spectropolarimetry of HAbitable Planet Earth (SHAPE), will be conducted by the Propulsion Module from the Moon's orbit.

The milestone triggered widespread jubilation throughout India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was a historic day for India's space sector and congratulated ISRO for the remarkable success of the Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission. The success belongs to all humanity, he said.

Reflecting the ambitions of 1.4 billion citizens, Chandrayaan-3 also stands as a testament to India's cost-efficient prowess in space engineering. Notably, the mission in 2023 was executed on a budget of approximately US$ 74 million — less than the production cost of the 2013 Hollywood blockbuster 'Gravity,' further underscoring India's economical yet impactful approach to space exploration.