India Mission Lands Near Moon’s Southern Pole

By Will Coffman, Guest Writer

On Aug. 23, India became the first country to journey near the moon’s southern pole with the success of its Chandrayaan-3 mission. Now, after its historic voyage, India’s moon rover was put into “sleep mode” after it completed its two-week assignment conducting experiments surrounding the region, and will be awakened again later this month.

The mission, which was a program under the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)’s lunar exploration program, saw the landing craft Vikram, named after the founder of the Indian space program Vikram Sarabhai, land in an unvoyaged and largely unknown area of the moon. India became only the fourth country, after the United States, Soviet Union and China, to land on the moon.

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This area of the moon is speculated to be a potentially game-changing area of research for scientists seeking to discover more about the Earth’s lunar neighbor.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said that the moon’s southern pole is home to mountainous terrain with solar conditions, which the administration theorizes could “provide near-constant solar power for a permanent lunar outpost sometime in the far future.” 

Scientists also believe the moon’s south pole could be host to frozen water, a discovery that if true will undoubtedly change how we look at and study the moon forever. 

India’s space program conducted this mission with a budget close to $74 million, a substantially lower cost than other nations’ lunar exploration missions. The reaction from the rest of the world indicates a palpable level of excitement felt by both scientists and civilians alike. 

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, cheering on his country from abroad in South Africa, perhaps summed up the feelings of his citizenry best. “This moment is unforgettable,” said Modi, “ It is phenomenal.” The United States and Russia were in agreement on the importance of India’s achievement, with the State Department of the United States commending India on “lighting the future of people around the world.” Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as describing the mission as “impressive.” 

People across India were overjoyed by their lunar success. School children were seen waving flags and cheering, along with adults from across Earth’s most populous nation. 

Recently, the rover secured its place in history, after the ISRO announced that while searching for water, the rover detected the presence of various elements, and confirmed that sulfur, as well as aluminum, titanium, oxygen, calcium, iron, chromium, silicon and manganese were located near the southern pole. 

The rover and lunar lander were put into “sleep mode” as the sun begins to set on the moon, since they need batteries to function. ISRO hopes to reawaken them when the next lunar day starts to begin exploring again. 

Upon the rocket’s initial launch, Prime Minister Modi said in a statement, “Chandrayaan-3 scripts a new chapter in India’s space odyssey.” Now, with the rover on the moon, studying the lunar surface, the rest of the world watches eagerly, waiting to see if a new chapter for the whole of mankind is written as well.