India Becomes the Fourth Country Ever to Land on the Moon

India Becomes the Fourth Country Ever to Land on the Moon

India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully landed on the Moon on Wednesday, marking a huge feat for the nation’s growing space program.

The Chandrayaan-3 lander and rover touched down on the lunar surface at 6:04 p.m. local time in India, adding India to a short list of countries who have been able to achieve a soft landing on the Moon. It’s now the fourth country to have landed on the Moon following the Soviet Union, the U.S., and China, and the first to land on the lunar south pole.

“India’s successful moon mission is not just India’s alone … this success belongs to all of humanity,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) livestream of the landing. “We can all aspire for the moon and beyond.”

Chandrayaan-3 launched on July 14 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on board India’s Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3) rocket. This was India’s second attempt to land on the Moon. Chandrayaan-2, however, did not go as well. The mission crashed on the lunar surface in September 2019 due to an issue with its braking thrusters. This time around, things appeared to go smoothly for the worthy successor, Chandrayaan-3.

A few minutes before its touchdown, the spacecraft switched from a horizontal position into its vertical descent phase when it was about 4 miles (7 kilometres) above the lunar surface. Continuing with its automatic landing sequence, Chandrayaan-3 slowed down to a nominal speed of 0 miles per second as it came within a distance of 0.5 miles away from the surface of the Moon before gently touching down near the south pole at 70 degrees latitude.

Now that it’s on the surface of the Moon, Chandrayaan-3 is designed to operate for one lunar day (or the equivalent of 14 Earth days) collecting data from the unexplored south polar region. The mission’s six-wheeled rover, nicknamed Pragyan, carries a laser-induced breakdown spectroscope and an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer to study the chemical composition of the surface of the Moon.

India’s successful touchdown on the Moon comes a few days after a failed attempt by Russia to land on the lunar south pole. Russia’s Luna-25 was meant to beat Chandrayaan-3 in the race to the surface of the Moon, but the spacecraft crashed on Saturday, two days before its scheduled landing attempt.

Chandrayaan-3 proved India has what it takes to land on the Moon, and ISRO now has big plans moving forward. Following the successful touchdown of the mission, space agency officials stated that they are now aiming to launch the first astronaut from India to space, as well as send a mission to Mars and Venus. Things are looking good for India’s space program as a new space race to the Moon starts to take shape.

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