In a triumphant leap for space exploration, India not only completed its first mission to the moon, a feat accomplished 54 years after the US first touched down, but it managed to land on the moon’s south pole, a region never before reached by any other country. The achievement comes in the wake of a failed attempt by Russia to land a spacecraft in the same area, igniting a new era of competitive space exploration sparked by the discovery of traces of water in the lunar south pole. This discovery, according to the Institute of Physics, could revolutionize space travel, as the elements of water—hydrogen and oxygen—are vital components of rocket fuel, and harvesting them on the moon could allow spacecraft to refuel for further exploration.
This monumental success is not just India’s triumph, but as Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, "This success belongs to all of humanity." As private, for-profit companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX have dominated headlines in space exploration, India’s historic achievement cements its position as a significant player in the field. The prospect of accessing water on the moon has sparked a new space race, with countries globally vying for a piece of the action. With this mission, India has proven it has much to offer in the unfolding saga of space exploration.
India’s Historic Lunar Mission: A New Era in Space Exploration
India accomplished a historic milestone in space exploration Wednesday, landing its first mission on the lunar south pole, an achievement no other nation has managed before. This accomplishment comes 54 years after the U.S first touched down on the moon, and just days after a Russian spacecraft crashed in the same region.
The Race for Lunar Resources
The two nations were locked in a race to send an unmanned spacecraft to the moon’s south pole following the discovery of water traces in the region. The presence of water, whose elements – hydrogen and oxygen, are critical components of rocket fuel, is significant for future space exploration. Harvesting these elements could allow spacecraft to refuel for further exploration, according to the Institute of Physics. The water could also potentially support long-term astronaut missions by providing a source of drinking water and enabling the growth of food crops.
India’s lunar mission was equipped with a rover designed to collect data on the soil and rock composition in the region, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). In a webcast of the event, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi declared the mission’s success as belonging to all of humanity.
India: A Rising Power in Space
This achievement underscores India’s growing influence in the realm of space exploration, which is increasingly dominated by private, for-profit entities such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX. SpaceX is currently NASA’s sole provider for manned space flights, with ambitious plans to send humans to Mars.
Previously, only the U.S., China, and the Soviet Union (now Russia) had landed on the moon, with the U.S. being the only country to do so with a crew. The discovery of water on the moon has ignited a new space race, with various nations vying for their piece of the lunar pie.
A Long-Awaited Triumph
This mission has been two decades in the making, with India’s ambitions for lunar exploration being first articulated by then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2003. Despite an unsuccessful attempt to land and deploy a rover in 2019 due to a software error, India has steadily improved its technology and capabilities. In fact, it became the first country to enter Mars’ orbit on its first attempt in 2014.
Looking to the Future
ISRO’s future plans for space exploration largely revolve around the moon. They are preparing for a joint mission with Japan, in which India will provide the landing machine. India also plans to send a manned spacecraft to the moon. If successful, India would become the second country after the U.S. to complete such an operation.
Private Sector Space Startups Flourishing
Meanwhile, a burgeoning private space industry is taking root within India. With at least 140 registered space startups and a sector value of over $6 billion, the private space industry has surpassed ISRO’s budget of less than $1.5 billion in the past fiscal year.
India’s success in landing on the lunar south pole is a monumental achievement that solidifies its position as a major player in space exploration. It also signals a shift in the new space race, with nations and private companies alike vying to explore and potentially exploit lunar resources. Moreover, the thriving space startup scene in India suggests a promising future for the country’s space sector. As countries and companies continue to push the boundaries of exploration, it’s clear the final frontier of space holds endless possibilities.