Pajhwok Afghan News

India lands spacecraft near the moon’s south pole

KABUL (Pajhwok): Having landed a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole, India has become the first country to reach the milestone.

After a failed attempt to land on the moon in 2019, India joined the United States, the Soviet Union and China as the fourth country to achieve the landmark on Wednesday, CBS reported.

A lander with a rover inside touched down on the lunar surface at 6:04pm local time, sparking celebrations around India, including in the southern city of Bengaluru, where space scientists watching the landing erupted in cheers.

The successful mission showcases India’s rising standing as a technology and space powerhouse and dovetails with the image that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to project: an ascendant country asserting its place among the global elite.

“India is now on the moon. India has reached the south pole of the moon — no other country has achieved that. We are witnessing history.”

Modi said as he waved the Indian tri-colored flag while watching the landing from South Africa, where he is participating in the BRICS summit.

The lunar rover will slide down a flap from the lander within hours or a day and conduct experiments, including an analysis of the mineral composition of the lunar surface, said S. Somnath, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

The mission, which began more than a month ago at an estimated cost of $75 million, is expected to last another two weeks. Somnath said that India would next attempt a manned lunar mission.

Nuclear-armed India grew to become the world’s fifth-largest economy last year and the success of the lunar mission will likely help Modi’s popularity ahead of a crucial general election next year.

India’s success comes just days after Russia’s Luna-25, which was aiming for the same lunar region, spun into an uncontrolled orbit and crashed. It would have been the first successful Russian lunar landing after a gap of 47 years.

Russia’s head of the state-controlled space corporation Roscosmos attributed the failure to the lack of expertise due to the long break in lunar research that followed the last Soviet mission to the moon in 1976.

Excited and anxious people across India crowded around televisions in offices, shops, restaurants and homes. Thousands prayed Tuesday for the success of the mission with oil lamps on the river banks, temples and religious places, including the holy city of Varanasi in northern India.

A man waved a banner reading ”The Moon in India’s arms.”

Shrini Singh, a New Delhi resident, said she got goosebumps. ”It’s a very happy moment … you can see the energy. It’s beyond words.”

Mitakshi Sinha, a student, said the successful mission motivated her. “And now I also want to be part of ISRO,” she said, referring to the country’s space agency.

India will host next week’s G-20 Summit, and Modi is expected to use the event to spotlight the country’s growing geopolitical clout. Even as it maintains historic ties with Russia, the U.S. and other Western nations continue to woo India, whom they see as a critical bulwark against China’s growing influence.

Congratulations poured in from around the world to acknowledge India’s emergence as a modern space power.

sa/mud

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