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India has landed its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the moon, becoming only the fourth nation ever to achieve such a feat.
The mission could cement India's status as a global superpower in space. Previously, only the United States, China and the former Soviet Union have carried out soft landings on the lunar surface.
Chandrayaan-3's landing site is also closer to the moon's south pole than any other spacecraft in history has ventured. The South Pole region is considered an area of key scientific and strategic interest to spacefaring nations, as scientists believe the region is home toproblemdeposit.
The water, frozen inshadowy craters, could be turned into rocket fuel or even drinking water for future manned missions.
Ex-NASA astronaut explains why the moon's south pole is of special interest
00:45 - Source:CNN
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently in South Africa for the BRICS summit, watched the landing virtually and shared broadcast remarks on the live stream.
"On this joyous occasion... I would like to address all the people of the world," he said. "India's successful moon mission is not India's alone. This is a year when the world is witnessing India's G20 presidency. Our One Earth, One Family, One Future approach is resonating across the globe.
"This human-centric approach that we present and we represent has been welcomed universally. Our moon mission is also based on the same human-centric approach," Modi added. "Therefore, this success belongs to all humanity and it will help other countries' moon missions in the future. "
India's attempt to land its spacecraft near the moon's south pole comes days after another nation's failed attempt to do the same. Russia's Luna 25 spacecraftcrashed into the moonon August 19 after its engines failed, ending the nation's first lunar landing attempt in 47 years.
Journey of Chandrayaan-3
As Chandrayaan-3 approached the moon, its cameras captured photographs, including one taken on August 20, which India's space agency shared on Tuesday. The image offers a close-up view of the moon's dusty gray terrain.
India's lunar lander consists of three parts: a lander, rover and propulsion module, which gave the spacecraft all the thrust needed to cross the 384,400-kilometer void between the moon and Earth.
The lander, named Vikram, performed the precision maneuvers required to make a soft touchdown on the lunar surface after it was ejected from the propulsion module. Tucked inside is Pragyan, a small, six-wheeled rover that will launch from the lander by rolling down a ramp.
Vikram used its onboard thrusters to carefully orient itself as it neared the lunar surface, and it slowly throttled its engines for a touchdown just after 1 p.m. IST (8:30 a.m. ET) as applause erupted from the mission control room.
The Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, laterconfirmedit had established two-way communication with the spacecraft and shared the first images of the surface taken during the lander's final descent.
The lander, which weighs about 1,700 kilograms (3,748 pounds), and the 26 kilogram (57.3 pounds) rover are packed with scientific instruments, prepared to capture data to help scientists analyze the moon's surface and provide fresh insights into its composition.
Applause erupted in the control room on Wednesday as India's lunar lander touched down on the lunar surface.
Dr. Angela Marusiak, an assistant research professor at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, said she is particularly excited that the lunar lander includes a seismometer that will try to detect earthquakes in the lunar interior.
Studying how the moon's inner layers move could be key information for future endeavors on the lunar surface, Marusiak said.
"You want to make sure that any potential seismic activity would not endanger any astronauts," Marusiak said. "Or, if we were to build structures on the moon, that they would be safe from any seismic activity."
The lander and rover are expected to operate for about two weeks on the lunar surface. The propulsion module will remain in orbit and serve as a relay point to send data back to Earth.
A global moon rush
Working on the sidealliessuch as the US and France, India is part of a second wave of emerging space powers. The country's space program has become one of the world's busiest in its development of investigative space technology.
Chandrayaan-3 has been a point of national pride and widespread interest throughout India. Crowds gathered atlaunch padat the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh state to watch the mission take off in July. On Wednesday, more than 8 million people tuned in to watch a live stream of the landing.
Children in a school in Guwahati, India, celebrate Chandrayaan-3's successful landing on the moon on Wednesday.
At least 500 people gathered at the Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in New Delhi on Wednesday, where the live stream was broadcast in an auditorium as well as outdoors in a temporary pavilion. After a successful touchdown was confirmed, Indian sweets were distributed to the crowd, fireworks were lit and spectators clapped for more than a minute.
Chants of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" - or "victory to India" - could be heard and children happily waved the Indian flag.
India's mission has gained even more importance since Russia's failed Luna 25 landing attempt. With the success of Chandrayaan-3, India became the second country to land a spacecraft on the moon in the 21st century after China, which has put three landers on the lunar surface since 2013 - including the first country to land on the lunar surfaceRemove page. (The last American lunar lander, the manned Apollo 17 mission, landed in 1972.)
Shown here is an image of the lunar surface taken by the mission's Lander Horizontal Velocity Camera during the spacecraft's descent on Wednesday.
More than a dozen countries are planning missions to the moon in the coming years, including a mission launched by Japan's space agency - the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency - which is expected to launch later this month. The US also plans to sendthree commercial lunar landersto the moon, starting as early as this year, while NASA continues to work toward its Artemis III mission, which could return astronauts to the moon as early as 2025.
However, landing on the moon remains a challenging endeavor. India's last attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon during the 2019 Chandrayaan-2 mission failed. And two commercial spacecraft have crash-landed on the lunar surface in recent times - one fromIsraelin 2019 and the second fromJapani april.
"There is no doubt that landing on the Moon is a real challenge," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement Sunday. "But the Moon offers great scientific reward, which is why we've seen so many recent attempts to revisit the surface. We look forward to all that we will learn in the future, including from India's Chandraayan-3 mission."
On Wednesday, Nelson also shared a congratulatory message regardingSocial Media, and says, “Congratulations#Ifto be the 4th country to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon. We are happy to be your partner on this mission!”
India is also a signatory to the US Artemis Accords, a document that outlines proposed rules of the road for future lunar exploration. Russia and China have not signed the agreements.
CNN's Irene Nasser contributed to this story.