India makes history as first country to successfully land spacecraft on Moon's south pole

23 August 2023, 14:10 | Updated: 23 August 2023, 14:16

India has successfully landed its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft near the Moon's south pole
India has successfully landed its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft near the Moon's south pole. Picture: Alamy/Isro

By Emma Soteriou

India has made history after successfully landing its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft near the Moon’s south pole.

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It was India's second attempt in four years to join the US, Soviet Union and China in achieving the landmark.

It comes after the country unexpectedly got into a race with Russia, which had planned to land its Luna-25 spacecraft in the same region on Monday. But Luna-25 crashed into the Moon after it spun into an uncontrolled orbit.

Scientists believe the uncharted territory could hold important reserves of frozen water and precious elements.

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India's Chandrayaan-3 - "moon craft" in Sanskrit - took off from a launchpad in Sriharikota in southern India on July 14, heading for the far side of the Moon.

As the lander - which has a rover inside - touched down on the lunar surface, cheers and applause erupted among the space scientists watching in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru.

India lands spacecraft on the moon

A statement from the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said: "India's pursuit of space exploration reaches a remarkable milestone with the impending Chandrayaan-3 mission, poised to achieve a soft landing on the lunar surface.

"This achievement marks a significant step forward for Indian science, engineering, technology, and industry, symbolising our nation's progress in space exploration."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen on a livestream broadcast into the Isro's control room, smiling and waving an Indian flag as Chandrayaan-3 landed.

"India is now on the Moon," he said.

Indian spacecraft sends images of lunar surface ahead of landing attempt

India's previous attempt to land a robotic spacecraft near the Moon's little-explored south pole ended in failure in 2019.

It entered the lunar orbit but lost touch with its lander, which crashed while making its final descent to deploy a rover to search for signs of water.

In May, China launched a three-person crew for its orbiting space station and hopes to put astronauts on the Moon before the end of the decade.

Nasa also plans to land astronauts at the lunar south pole, taking advantage of the frozen water in craters.