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India successfully landed its first robotic mission on the Moon on Wednesday, making it the fourth nation in history to operate a spacecraft on the lunar surface. The nation’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, which launched from Earth on July 14, is also the first mission ever to touch down in the Moon’s South Pole, which is a major region of interest for future human exploration.
The landing was widely celebrated across India, where Chandrayaan-3 has been a source of both pride and anxiety in recent weeks. India’s last attempt to land on the lunar surface, Chandrayaan-2, ended in disappointment when the spacecraft crashed into the Moon on September 6, 2019. Pressure on the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which operates Chandrayaan-3, only grew more intense after Russia’s robotic lunar lander, Luna-24, also crashed into the Moon over the weekend. ISRO leads can now breathe a sigh of relief as Chandrayaan-3 has sent word that it safely touched down on the lunar South Pole. More than seven million people tuned in to watch live coverage of the descent and landing on YouTube, which was achieved shortly after 8:30 Eastern Time on August 23.The mission’s lander, called Vikram, is carrying a 60-pound rover, called Pragyan, that is designed to be deployed to the lunar surface on a ramp. If all goes to plan, Pragyan will trundle across more than 1,000 feet of the Moon’s surface, taking measurements, for about two weeks. The mission will then cease as Vikram and Pragyan are not equipped to survive the lunar night.For now, the mood in mission control, and for space fans across the world, is jubilant. Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, called the landing an “unprecedented moment” for a “new, developing India.”