On August 23, excitement broke out at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) headquarters in Bengaluru, India. Scientists and government officials alike clapped, cheered and hugged each other as the Indian spacecraft, Chandrayaan-3 (which means ‘moon vehicle’ in Hindi), landed on the moon. People across India celebrated with fireworks and dances in the streets as India officially became the fourth country to land on the moon and the first to explore its south pole in a mission that will forever be remembered in lunar exploration history and marks an important milestone in India’s standing as a space power.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi applauded the mission’s success and further emphasized its significance in our world. “This moment is unforgettable,” Modi said as he waved the Indian flag. “It is phenomenal. This is a victory cry of a new India.” Leaders around the world have also applauded the mission’s success including Russian President Vladmir Putin and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Nelson posted on social media with a message commemorating the achievement: “Congratulations to India on being the 4th country to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon,” he wrote on Twitter, now known as X. “We’re glad to be your partner on this mission!” In a statement to Reuters, Nelson also said that NASA is “looking forward” to what would be learned from the information collected by the Pragyan rover that was unloaded by the mission’s lunar lander, Vikram. With this, the question arises: what exactly will we learn about the moon?
The Chandrayaan-3 mission is focused on the lunar south pole as it was recently discovered to be a region with water ice, or frozen water, that could be used as a source of oxygen, fuel, and water for Moon missions in the future or, as some scientists speculate, a permanent Moon colony. It can also be the home to the rising lunar mining industry, one that is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is currently being explored by private companies. The rover is expected to remain functional for two weeks and run various experiments, most importantly a spectrometer analysis of the mineral composition of the lunar surface. The lander is about 2 meters (6.56 feet) tall with a mass of roughly 1,700 kilograms (3750 pounds), while the rover itself has a mass of around 25 kilograms (55 pounds). Apart from being the basis of a moon colony and lunar mining site, when looking into the future, many scientists speculate that the water could also be broken down to produce hydrogen for fuel and oxygen to breathe, components that would make the moon’s south pole an ideal pitstop for future manned missions to Mars.
But, apart from being the first mission to land on the south pole of the moon and giving humanity a new perspective on our lunar friend, this feat becomes even more remarkable when considering the limited budget with which it was achieved. India set a completely new bar in the world of space exploration by completing this mission with a budget of – wait for it – 6.15 billion INR (Indian Rupees) or about $75 million USD. And yes, while this sounds like quite a grand amount of money, it is nothing compared to the budgets of previous lunar missions by other countries who have gone to the moon – the United States, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and China.
For reference, the US-led Apollo 11, the first mission to successfully land man on the moon, cost approximately 355 million dollars, and the final mission, Apollo 17, cost approximately 450 million dollars. Similarly, the Chinese-led missions to land on the moon completed by their Chang’e probes from 2007 to 2020 cost the Chinese government 219 million dollars and Russia’s south-pole lander which failed and crashed due to misfired engines on August 20, 2023 cost them $200 million.
What is even more impressive is that, even after India proved to the world that landing on the moon’s south pole isn’t just a possibility and can actually be achieved (that too, with a limited budget), other countries that have planned similar missions to explore the south pole haven’t found a way to reduce their budget. For example, the estimated budget of NASA’s VIPER rover to the lunar south pole that is currently planned to launch in late 2024 is still at 433.5 million dollars, nearly 6 times more expensive than the cost of Chandrayaan-3.
Instead of basking in the glow of their latest success, the ISRO hasn’t stopped exploring our vast solar system. Aditya-L1 (Aditya meaning “sun” in Sanskrit) was launched on September 1, just under two weeks after Chandrayaan-3 landed on the moon, to study the solar atmosphere, solar magnetic storms, and their impact on the environment around the Earth. It is expected to orbit the sun approximately 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth for 177 days and is the first Indian-led mission dedicated to studying the Sun.
India has proven to the world with their Chandrayaan-3 mission (and the ones that followed) that they are always striving to reach new and better achievements and break down any barriers that come in their way, whether it be inadequate funding or a lack of resources. They have exemplified their ability, against all odds, to do something that has never been done before. But, most importantly, they have shown their everlasting dedication and commitment to furthering our understanding of space to new heights, no matter the circumstances.
Hello! My name is Krishna Mano and I am a sophomore at City High School. This is my fourth year writing for The City Voice and second year as an editor. Apart from the newspaper, I am part of the Speech and Debate team, President of the 10th Grade Student Council, and Treasurer of the NHS. Outside of school, I enjoy playing the violin, reading, skiing, and paddleboarding. If you have any questions about my articles, please contact me at email@example.com.