From bated breath to cheers: A nation’s journey to rare moon-landing feat

The lander and the six-wheeled rover (with total mass of 1,752 kg) are designed to operate for one lunar daylight period (about 14 Earth days).

New Delhi: An entire nation held its collective breath as Chandrayaan-3 inched closer to the lunar surface, finally erupting with joy as India scripted history by becoming the fourth country to successfully touch down on the Moon.

People gathered in educational institutions, offices, city squares and religious places to watch the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) live telecast of Chandrayaan-3’s final descent to the uncharted surface of the lunar south pole.

Comprising the lander (Vikram) and the rover (Pragyan), India’s Moon mission Chandrayaan-3 touched down on the lunar south pole at 6.04 pm on Wednesday, propelling the country to an exclusive club of four and making it the first country to land on the uncharted surface.

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Chandrayaan-3 is a follow-on mission to Chandrayaan-2 and its objectives are to demonstrate safe and soft-landing on the lunar surface, roving on the Moon, and to conduct in-situ scientific experiments.

Addressing ISRO scientists virtually from Johannesburg, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India made a resolve “on the Earth and fulfilled it on the Moon”.

“This is a moment to cherish forever,” Modi said, noting that India has reached the south pole of the Moon, where no country had ventured so far.

“India is now on the moon and now is the time to walk on the ‘Chandra Path’,” the prime minister said.

In Delhi, celebrations erupted in education centres, including schools, and residential localities as the landing module touched down on the Moon.

Earlier in the day, Delhi government school children joined the nation in praying for the successful landing with special posters. Nearly 150 girl students of the Al Jamiatul Islamia Islahul Banat madrassa in Mandoli took part in a special prayer before the scheduled landing.

The coverage of the soft-landing was available on multiple platforms, including the ISRO’s website, YouTube channel and Facebook page, and DD National TV channel.

Students across the country were glued to screens and large television sets set up at their schools and college campuses watching the Chandrayaan-3 live-streaming.

The space agency had urged all schools and educational institutions to actively publicise the event among their students and faculty, and organise its live streaming. The Union education ministry too asked universities and higher education institutions, including IITs and IIMs, to organise live-telecast of the mission.

In Jammu, students of Lawrence Public School witnessed the historic soft landing.

“We are very excited to see the Chandrayan-3 landing on the Moon. It is history for India,” Class 9 student Sunita told PTI.

Similar programmes were held in Jodhamal School, Raina School and Army Public Schools in Jammu.

In Odisha, a group of priests at the famed Jagannath temple assembled in front of the 12th century shrine’s Lion’s Gate and lit ‘diyas’ seeking divine blessings for the success of the mission.

Bhaskar Mishra, a researcher, said that “as Lord Jagannath is worshipped as the master of the universe, His blessings are most essential for India’s lunar mission”.

Puri Shankaracharaya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, an expert in Vedic mathematics, said many ‘puranas’ have mentioned about the ‘chanda (Moon)’.

“Our ancient saints were familiar with the ‘Chandra’. Therefore, space scientists should also take reference from the puranas while going for lunar mission,” he said and wished all success for the mission.

While priests performed ‘havans’ in temples across the country, clerics at several ‘dargahs’, including in Mumbai and Bhubaneswar, took ‘chadar’ as offerings for the mission’s success.

In localities and residential colonies in several cities, projectors were also put up to live-stream the nerve-racking final descent.

ISRO chief S Somanath said the success of Chandrayaan-3 gives Indian space scientists the confidence to undertake more challenging future missions.

“We have achieved soft landing on Moon. India is on the Moon,” he said minutes after the landing.

The Rs 600-crore Chandrayaan-3 mission was launched on July 14 on board Launch Vehicle Mark-III (LVM-3) rocket, embarking on a complicated 41-day voyage.

The lander and the six-wheeled rover (with total mass of 1,752 kg) are designed to operate for one lunar daylight period (about 14 Earth days).

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