Introduction: India, once known for its diverse symbolism as the land of both serpents and sages, has now solidified its position among the global space technology leaders. This accomplishment comes as India achieves the remarkable feat of being the fourth nation to achieve a soft lunar landing with its Chandrayaan-3 mission. Nestled within the spacecraft, the Chandrayaan-3 rover is poised to explore the lunar surface. The mission duration of the lander is anticipated to span a single lunar day, equivalent to 14 Earth days. In contrast to the previous crash landing, India has now joined the ranks of the United States, Russia, and China in this historic achievement. This feat not only underscores India’s expanding space expertise but also marks the pioneering instance of landing at the South Pole region.
India’s space agency has effectively showcased the nation’s prowess in space exploration and burgeoning space commerce by successfully landing a rover, Chandrayaan-3, on the Moon. Crafted on a relatively modest budget of under $75 million, the Chandrayaan-3 mission has realized the aspirations of 1.4 billion Indians. This achievement, the culmination of widespread anticipation, has ignited celebrations across the nation. The anxieties that lingered from the previous mission were dispelled, and the collective joy of the Indian populace blossomed upon the rover’s lunar touch.
Joining the Elite Lunar Explorers India’s triumphant mission
propels it into an exclusive consortium of nations—comprising the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China—that have achieved soft landings on the Moon. Recent attempts by other nations faced challenges, such as a Japanese start-up’s miscalculated landing altitude leading to a crash and an Israeli spacecraft’s unfortunate lunar surface contact. Following the deployment of an orbiter in the Chandrayaan-2 mission, India succeeded in landing the lander and rover, thereby making strides toward its lunar exploration ambitions. This latest endeavour, Chandrayaan-3, aims to explore the Moon’s permanently shadowed craters believed to hold water reserves.
Chandrayaan-3 comprises a 2- meter-long lander engineered to deploy a rover near the Moon’s South Pole—a location where water ice has been detected. The rover is expected to conduct experiments during its two-week operational period. Solar power will fuel Chandrayaan-3’s lander and rover throughout their lunar mission, accounting for the Moon’s 14-day daynight cycle. Precise calculations guided the mission’s timing, ensuring the South Pole region would be sunlit between August 23 and September 5, enabling the rover’s charging and scientific activities.
Driving Private Investment and Space Commerce
The Indian Space Research Organization’s launch reflects the nation’s growing stature as a formidable player in space exploration and commerce. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies aimed at boosting investment in private space endeavours have spurred the growth of space startups since 2020. India’s expanding space operations, including the successful launch of its privately developed rocket Vikram-S in November 2022, underscore its role as a significant commercial space contributor. India’s aspiration to increase its global launch market share fivefold within a decade indicates a strategic pursuit to establish itself as a space industry leader.
India’s accomplishment in soft lunar landing with Chandrayaan-3 not only solidifies its position among the leading spacefaring nations but also marks a pivotal stride toward unlocking the mysteries of the Moon’s uncharted territories. This achievement stands as a testament to India’s unwavering dedication to scientific exploration and technological innovation, ushering the nation onto the global stage as a trailblazer in space exploration.
(Writer is a Poet, freelance journalist and columnist, All India Radio and TV panelist. Views are personal)