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“India is on the moon” and ready for new horizons


Chandrayaan 3 creates history for India (ISRO Image)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, August 24, 2023

It is an especially momentous day for Indians in the subcontinent and beyond, who all exhaled a collective sigh of relief, as the Chandrayaan-3 made a safe landing on the lunar surface at 6.04 pm (IST) on August 23, 2023.

As the lander named Vikram and a rover named Pragyan from the country’s Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully touched the lunar surface, the control room at ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) erupted in laughter, cheers, and applause. Elated and emotional, scientists shook hands and embraced as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waved a miniature Indian flag on the televised screen in front of them.

“We have achieved a soft landing on the moon,” S. Somanath, the chair of ISRO, declared. “India is on the moon.”

Mr Somanath also extended congratulations to the accomplished team behind the mission, which included Project Director P Veeramuthuvel, Assistant Director Kalpana, Mission Director Srikanth and URSC Director V Sankaran. Assistant Director Kalpana described the achievement as the “most memorable and happiest moment,” reflecting the team’s collective pride in being a part of this remarkable moment in history.

An unparalleled achievement

India had become the fourth country, after the USA, Russia, and China to land on the moon and the first to land on the lunar south pole. But more than just a moon landing, the historic moment also made it clear that India is a force to be reckoned with on the global stage.

ISRO launched Chandrayaan-3 on July 14, 2023, to reach the southern pole, which has abundant water ice. This frozen water resource holds the potential for oxygen, fuel, and water that would make more lunar missions or lunar settlements possible.

Scientists believe that the expedition, the planning of a lifetime for some, will also provide valuable scientific data about the moon, its composition, and its potential for sustaining life. India’s spacecraft will remain on the moon for about two weeks to run different experiments, including using devices such as a spectrometer to analyse the mineral makeup of the moon’s surface.

Blast-off image which captured the start of a successful journey (ISRO Image)

Cost efficiency only India could achieve

The mission is historic for its cost efficiency. India spent ₹6.15 billion ($74 million) on the mission, whereas the USA, in comparison, spent $288 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars on its Apollo lunar program.

India’s lunar landing also represents a new global pecking order. The space race of yore in the 1960s and 1970s was another symptom of the Cold War, as the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. battled it out for the supremacy of their respective ideologies and cultures, not just on Earth, but also in space. China led the last successful moon in 2013. India’s successful landing, on the other hand, though decades later, is not really about the moon at all. The event was a way to cement the country’s position as a new global superpower.

“When we witness history getting made in front of our eyes, then life becomes richer,” Prime Minister Modi said in a speech to ISRO scientists right after the landing. “These historic events make countries immortal.”

Growing India

India has surpassed China this year as the world’s most populous country and overtook the U.K. its former colonizer as the world’s fifth-largest economy in 2022. In a world gripped by fears of an impending recession, India is still growing.

Analysts expect India to overtake the U.S. and become the world’s second-largest economy by 2075, right after China.

“Chandrayaan-3’s triumph mirrors the aspirations and capabilities of 140 crore [1.4 billion] Indians. To new horizons and beyond,” Modi later said in a tweet.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has congratulated India on the historic moon landing.

“This for us, as the BRICS family, is a momentous occasion and we rejoice with you. We join you in the joy of this great achievement,” he said.

The director general of the European Space Agency, Josef Aschbacher, calls the landing of  Chandrayaan-3 an “incredible” event. “What a way to demonstrate new technologies and achieve India’s first soft landing on another celestial body,” he said. “Well done. I am thoroughly impressed.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of UAE also took to social media and said, “Congratulations to our friends in India for the successful landing on the moon. Nations are built through perseverance, and India continues to make history.”

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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