BENGALURU — An Indian spacecraft became the first to land on the rugged, unexplored south pole of the moon on Wednesday in a mission seen as crucial to lunar exploration and India’s standing as a space power, just days after a similar Russian lander crashed.
“This moment is unforgettable. It is phenomenal. This is a victory cry of a new India,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who waved the Indian flag as he watched the landing from South Africa where he is attending a BRICS summit, a group that joins Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Scientists and officials clapped, cheered and hugged each other as the spacecraft landed and people across India broke out in celebration, setting off firecrackers and dancing in the streets.
“India is on the moon,” said S. Somanath, chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as the Chandrayaan-3 landed, making India the fourth nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon after the United States, China and the former Soviet Union.
ISRO shared pictures from the spacecraft showing the moon’s surface and the leg and shadow of the lander.
Rough terrain makes a south pole landing difficult, but the region’s ice could supply fuel, oxygen and drinking water for future missions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated India in a message to Modi published on the Kremlin website.
“This is a big step forward in space exploration and of course a testament to the impressive progress made by India in the field of science and technology,” he said. — Reuters