‘India is on the moon’: World reacts as country becomes first to land on south pole of the moon

Millions tuned in to watch India make history on Wednesday – becoming the first country to successfully land a spacecraft near the South Pole of the moon. 

It becomes only the fourth country to land a probe on the moon after the United States, Russia and China. The mission, seen as pivotal to lunar exploration and India’s status as a space power.

Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi waved the Indian flag as he watched the landing from South Africa, describing it as an “unforgettable” and “phenomenal” moment for the country.

“This is a victory cry of a new India,” he said. As the country celebrated, Modi said that the success of the mission “belongs to all of humanity.”

Chandrayaan-3 – which means “mooncraft” in Sanskrit, was launched from Southern India on 14 July, becoming the first spacecraft to land on the unexplored and rugged surface of the south pole of the moon, an area which little is known about. Across the country, people crowded around television screens in offices, businesses, homes and shops to watch the historic feat – as celebrations erupted throughout the country.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Anil Kumar Bhatt, director general of the Indian Space Association, said the handing was a special moment for everyone in the country.

“There were more than a million hearts beating louder and faster, waiting in the very critical last 20 minutes of the landing coming down,” he said.

“There is jubilation all around. I’m here in a college near Delhi, and my God, the excitement is remarkable. It’s like we won a world cup match,” he told the news outlet.

In Ireland, the Independent reported on the celebrations of the Indian community here, as people gathered to watch the livestream of the moon landing.

“It’s a moment of immense pride for the nation and for us as people”, Priyanka Singh, an IT professional who lives in Sligo told the paper.

As the spacecraft landed, S. Monanth, head of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) proudly declared: “India is on the moon.”

Countries around the world offered their congratulations, with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs saying the achievement would “power the imagination and light the future for people around the world.”

Russian President Vladimr Putin, meanwhile, offered his congratulations to India, days after Moscow’s own mission to the moon crashed.

“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,” a Kremlin statement read.

Other countries which offered their congratulations included Dubai, with ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum saying it was proof that “India continues to make history.”

The country’s space agency Roskosmos also congratulated India on the successful landing via a post on Telegram.

“Exploration of the moon is important for all mankind. In the future it may become a platform for deep space exploration,” it said.

The Chandrayaan-3 landing has fuelled hopes that it will progress the efforts of other nations to build a future lunar base. The Lunar South Pole, the southernmost point of the moon, is of particular interest to scientists because of the presence of water ice in permanently shadowed areas which surround it.  The region features craters which are cold traps containing a fossil record of water, ice and hydrogen, dating from the early solar system. This makes the south pole region unique.

Carla Filotico, managing director at consultancy SpaceTec Partners, said india’s feat of reaching the south pole was “very important” for science and would allow India to explore whether ice or water is present on the moon.

“This is very important for cumulative data and science on the geology of the moon.” she said, according to a report in Reuters.

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