Indian space officials said on Thursday a lunar module slid down the ramp of the Indian spacecraft’s lander within hours of its historic landing near the moon’s south pole, as the country celebrates its new scientific achievement.
“India has walked on the moon,” the state-run Indian Space Research Organization said, adding that the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft will conduct experiments over a period of 14 days, including analyzing the mineral composition of the lunar surface.
Residents of the world’s most populous nation crowded around televisions in offices, shops and restaurants on Wednesday, bursting into applause, dancing and exchanging sweets when they saw the craft descend smoothly. It landed on an uncharted area that scientists believe could contain vital reserves of frozen water.
“India is going where no nation has gone before,” read the headline of the Times of India daily on Thursday, while the Indian Express chanted: “The Moon is Indian.”
Ajay Bhargava, an architect based in New Delhi, said watching the broadcast of the landing was an amazing experience and that he felt it was the culmination of the hard work done by Indian scientists over the years.
“Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor any other politician should take credit for this achievement,” Bhargava said in a phone interview.
The head of the Indian Space Research Organization, S. Somnath said the lander touched down near the center of the 4.5-kilometre (2.8-mile) wide area that was intended for landing. “I landed 300 meters (985 feet) from that point,” the Press Trust of India news agency quoted him as saying.
Somnath said the rover was moving and working “extremely well”.
Somnath said there are two science instruments in the rover and three instruments on the lander, and they are all triggered in sequence.
He added, “They will mainly study the mineral composition of the moon, as well as the moon’s atmosphere and seismic activities there.”
After a failed attempt to land on the moon in 2019, India on Wednesday joined the United States, the Soviet Union and China in becoming only the fourth country to achieve the feat.
The successful mission demonstrates India’s rising status as a technological and space powerhouse and aligns with the image Modi is trying to project: a rising country asserting its place among the global elite.
The mission began more than a month ago at an estimated cost of $75 million. Somnath said India would then attempt a manned mission to the moon.
Many countries and private companies are interested in Antarctica because its permanently shaded craters may contain frozen water that could aid future astronaut missions, as a potential source of drinking water or for making rocket fuel.
India’s success comes just days after the Russian Luna 25 spacecraft, which was aiming for the same lunar region, entered an out-of-control orbit and crashed. This would have been Russia’s first successful moon landing after a 47-year gap. The head of Russia’s state-controlled space company Roscosmos attributed the failure to a lack of experience due to the long pause in lunar research that followed the last Soviet mission to the moon in 1976.
India has been active since the 1960s, launching satellites for itself and other countries, and succeeded in placing one in orbit around Mars in 2014. India plans its first mission to the International Space Station next year, in cooperation with the United States.
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