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One small step for ISRO, a giant leap for India: why we are moonstruck by Chandrayaan-3 Mission’s success

Indians now have a special connection to the Earth’s moon. For us, the moon is not the same anymore.

On August 30, 2023, Wednesday, India’s space agency ISRO took to “X”(formerly Twitter) and shared a groundbreaking and delightful update about Chandrayaan-3 Mission. They tweeted the image of Vikram lander on Earth’s moon as clicked by the navigation camera onboard the Pragyan rover.

To get a perspective of India’s brilliant achievement, just step outside under the open clear sky and look at the moon and imagine ISRO’s Pragyan rover moving around there, creating tracks on its surface. Can there be a bigger defining moment in India’s history of space exploration? It is surely India’s tryst with the universe. If American astronaut Neil Armstrong, who is considered to be the first human to walk on the moon was still alive, he might have summed it up as: “That’s one small step for ISRO, one giant leap for India”.

For years, some people have dissed India’s progress and development in various sectors including science and technology. Generations have heard the jibe: “Oh! but this has been done before by other countries, we’re only doing it now”. Many of us have grown up hearing India’s critics take a dig: “What the developed nations achieve early, is realised by India ten years later”. In other words, critics say that India runs behind by several years to the advancements in the developed world.

Well, this time thanks to ISRO scientists, India has set a benchmark and achieved a milestone. India has outrun the developed world and compelled them to follow its lead. The fact that “India is the first country to land a spacecraft on the moon’s South Pole” will ensure that the developed nations can only follow suit but can never take away the “first” tag.

Of course, as a nation India has miles to go in various sectors to stand parallel to the developed nations. ISRO lags behind NASA in several areas and America’s (and several other nations too) technological advancements are far superior than ours at the moment but India is surely closing in on the difference.

On August 23, 2023, under the Chandrayaan-3 Mission, while the “Vikram” spacecraft was doing a controlled landing on the moon, anxiety about the mission at ISRO Telemetry Tracking & Command Network was palpable. Just a few days earlier on August 19, 2023, Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft aimed at outsmarting Chandrayaan-3 Mission and landing on the moon’s South Pole in a bid to become the first country to do so, had crashed on the moon’s surface. For many of India’s scientists, the horrors of Chandrayaan- 2 crash landing were still fresh as well.

But amid those heart-stopping displays of “horizontal velocity”, “vertical velocity” and “altitude” of the lander module(LM)+ rover, ISRO conquered all odds and succeeded in landing “Vikram” spacecraft on the moon at what has now been named as “Shiv Shakti Point”.

The news of Chandrayaan-3’s success was received in festive fervour by Indians and grabbed eyeballs across the world. Without an iota of doubt, it has inspired hundreds of young Indian students to take deep interest in science and pursue their careers in the exciting field. ISRO scientists like K Sivan, S Somnath etc. have become the new rockstars.

Two of the mission’s objectives: to demonstrate safe and soft landing on the lunar surface and to demonstrate rover roving on the moon, have been achieved. The third objective is to conduct in-situ scientific experiments and is in progress. With the help of Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) and Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) onboard Pragyan, the presence of oxygen, sulphur, aluminum, silicon, calcium, chromium, manganese, titanium and iron, has been detected in moon’s soil and rocks.

While Vikram lander and Pragyan rover have been projected to survive only one lunar day (~14 Earth days), the success of Chandrayaan-3 Mission has already got immortalised as “National Space Day” in India. Undoubtedly, Indians now have a special connection to the Earth’s moon. For Indians, the moon is not the same anymore.

Anand Mahindra has rightfully envisioned that “One day, we’ll see Indian Astronauts taking selfies next to it(Vikram lander and Pragyan rover)… Notably, with the upcoming Gaganyaan mission, ISRO has set its sight on sending first humans to space by India. The mission will set the platform for sending Indian astronauts to Moon/Mars in future.

In space exploration, India has announced with a bang that they are here. ISRO also plans to set up India’s very own space station in near future. Meanwhile, in another breakthrough, India’s Aditya-L1 mission will be launched on September 2 to study the Sun over the next five years.

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