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India Wows The World & Embarrasses Putin

The world witnessed a historic event Wednesday when India’s spacecraft, Chandrayaan-3, became the first to land on the rugged, unexplored south pole of the moon. Carrying out a mission seen as crucial to lunar exploration and India’s standing as a space power, the spacecraft’s successful landing comes 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 celebrated the successful landing from South Africa, where he is attending a BRICS summit.

Leaders around the world congratulated India, including Russian President Vladimir Putin who said in a letter to Modi, “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.” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson added his congratulations on Twitter, saying, “We’re glad to be your partner on this mission!”

Scientists and officials of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), too, celebrated the accomplishment, with ISRO Chief S Somanath saying, “India is on the moon!” His sentiment was shared across the country, with people cheering and setting off firecrackers to celebrate.

ISRO shared pictures of the moon’s surface with the lander’s leg and shadow visible in the frame. The mission was challenging given the rough terrain — making landing difficult — but also incredibly rewarding as the region’s ice could supply fuel, oxygen, and drinking water for future missions.

The Chandrayaan-3 is expected to remain functional for two weeks. It will carry out a series of experiments and a spectrometer analysis of the mineral composition of the lunar surface. It’ll also deploy its moon rover which will take a few hours or a day to come out of the spacecraft, Somanath told reporters.

India also hopes this accomplishment will lay the foundation for other space missions, including an upcoming mission to study the sun in September, and, potentially, a human space flight by 2024.

The Chandrayaan-3 was launched with a budget of about 6.15 billion rupees ($74 million) — much less than the cost to produce the 2013 Hollywood space thriller Gravity — making the mission a cost-effective success for India’s space engineering efforts.

The anticipation and excitement that went into the mission was a national affair, with banner headlines across Indian newspapers and news channels running countdowns to the landing. People across the country offered prayers at places of worship, schoolchildren waved the Indian tricolor as they waited for live screenings of the landing, and politicians celebrated the success.

Given the accomplishments and potential of the mission for future space exploration, its successful landing is expected to further India’s reputation for economical and advanced space engineering. India is certainly no stranger to adventure in outer space and the nation is undoubtedly proud of this momentous achievement.

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