India’s Chandrayaan-3 on Wednesday landed on the south pole of the moon after a 40-day journey, becoming the fourth country on Earth to do so. Prior to this achievement, only the former Soviet Union, China and the U.S. had successfully performed a soft landing on the moon.
In a statement issued prior to the landing, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said it was “all set to initiate the automatic landing sequence,” which would trigger the lander module’s activation of throttle-able engines for powered descent. It was achieved by the Vikram lander, which had in 2019 crashed into the lunar surface during the Chandrayaan-2 mission. Following the landing, ISRO said “India took a walk on the moon!”
According to the ISRO, the Chandrayaan-3 Rover—deployed after the soft-landing—would conduct on-site chemical analysis of the lunar surface while it is in motion. It said Chandrayaan-3 was expected to remain functional for two weeks, adding it would run a series of experiments, including a spectrometer analysis of the mineral composition of the lunar surface. It said the rover would move at a speed of 1 cm/s.
The mission’s main goal is to demonstrate the Indian space agency’s ability to carry out a soft-landing on the moon. “Landing on the south pole would actually allow India to explore if there is water ice on the moon. And this is very important for cumulative data and science on the geology of the moon,” said Carla Filotico, a partner and managing director at consultancy SpaceTec Partners, explaining the benefits of the landing site chosen by ISRO.
The historic moment prompted celebrations across India, with congratulations pouring in for the accomplishment from the rest of the world. In a televised address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “We have reached where no other country could.”
The Indian landing came just days after Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft spun out of control and crashed into the moon, while attempting a soft-landing.