After 18 minutes of intense anxiety, India on Wednesday scripted history by becoming the fourth country after the former USSR, the US and China to soft-land on the Moon by completing its Chandrayaan-3 mission. It is days after the failed Russian mission to the Moon.
Huge applause broke out as the national flag was raised at the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) of the Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in Bengaluru. Some scientists were banging their hands while others were in tears after tense moments in the final phase of the four-stage landing that lasted about 18 minutes. Scientists can also be seen praying at this memorable moment. The air in the media gallery and the ISRO headquarters reverberated with the slogans of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.
“We have achieved soft landing on the Moon. India is on the moon,” announced ISRO chairman S Somnath. India is the first country to land on the South Pole region of the Moon’s surface and has spent only Rs 615 crore to achieve this feat. The crowd erupted in joy at the terminal stage of the landing, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi also joined the live ISRO team from Johannesburg, where he is attending the BRICS summit.
“We feel very proud when we see such historical moments. This is the dawn of new India,” Modi said.
He added it in a more poetic way, “Once upon a time it was said that Chanda Mama is very far away, now one day he will come when children will say that Chanda Mama is just a tour.” Now the time will come when children will say Chanda Mama is just a tour away).”
The Prime Minister also outlined India’s space road map, mentioning that the Aditya L1 mission to the Sun, the Mars mission and the ambitious Gaganyaan mission to send humans to space are ISRO’s immediate priorities.
Modi called it the success of humanity.
The excitement was evident in the media gallery as prominent scientists, who were part of the mission, came for a press conference. He was greeted with a standing ovation, a rare gesture from the media.
“This is the beginning of a golden era for India. Somnath said, we are starting the Aditya L1 mission to study the Sun next month itself. He said that the initial unmanned test of Gaganyaan is likely to happen in the end of September or in the first week of October. Additionally, the country is also considering a new phase of launching Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles and Small Satellite Launch Vehicles.
ISRO thanked the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Australian Space Agency and the UK for their assistance in completing the project.
Prominent scientists who were part of the project include Project Director P Veeramuthuvel, Associate Project Director Kalpana K, Director UR Rao Satellite Center (URSC) M Sankaran and Mission Director Mohan Kumar.
Sankaran said: “We were living, sleeping, eating and breathing Chandrayaan-3.”
Scientists celebrate in the control room of ISRO Headquarters after the Chandrayaan-3 lander module successfully touched down on the lunar surface. Photo: PTI