The successful soft landing of India's ambitious Chandrayaan-3 mission on the Moon's enigmatic south pole has captured the attention and admiration of the scientific community.
Leading scientists and experts said this monumental accomplishment not only marks India's indelible imprint on lunar exploration but also demonstrates the prowess of human collaboration, determination, and cutting-edge technology.
Dr. Chrisphin Karthick, a scientist at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru, expressed his elation. "The successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 is a testament to our collective progress towards space travel. It showcases the beauty of unity in diversity as we sail the cosmic seas together," he told PTI.
"Slow and steady - reaching the goal is better than saying we won the race. I emphasise this since many are comparing it with our friendly nation programmes. It's good to say we earthlings won the race in sailing the universe in many ways," Karthick added.
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The 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. Chandrayaan-2 had failed in its lunar phase when its lander 'Vikram' crashed into the surface of the Moon following anomalies in the braking system in the lander while attempting a touch down on September 7, 2019. The Chandrayaan programme's maiden mission was in 2008.
Aakash Sinha, Professor of Practice at the Shiv Nadar Institution of Eminence, Delhi-NCR, and CEO of Omnipresent Robot Tech, hailed ISRO's (Indian Space Research Organisation) feat as a "monumental achievement" that will inspire a new generation of aspiring scientists and explorers.
"With this unparalleled accomplishment, India has etched its name in history by becoming the first country to land in this lunar region," Sinha, who was involved in developing the software for the Pragyan rover of Chandrayaan-3, told PTI.
The lander module comprising the lander (Vikram) and the 26-kg rover (Pragyan) made the soft landing near the south polar region of the Moon at 6.04 pm, less than a week after a similar Russian lander crashed.
"ISRO's Chandrayaan mission, which was the pioneer in discovering water on the moon, continues to break barriers and set new standards. Beyond its immediate scientific impact, this mission holds the promise of inspiring a new generation of young minds to join the realms of space exploration and science," he added.
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Sinha highlighted that the mission's accomplishments will "break barriers and set new standards," positioning India as a frontrunner in lunar research.
"Our team worked relentlessly with ISRO to develop the software for the navigation of the Pragyan rover. We are delighted to see our work and research reach the Moon," he added.
Astrophysicist Sandip Chakraborty noted that the significance of Chandrayaan-3's soft landing cannot be overstated.
"Soft landing is a start for future activities, such as science of the Moon and from the Moon. It is a gateway to the outer world," the director of the Indian Centre for Space Physics, Kolkata, told PTI.
He emphasised that this achievement propels India into an elite group of spacefaring nations, where it can stake its claim to the Moon's scientific and exploratory potential.
India became the fourth country in the world to perform a soft landing on the Moon. Only three countries namely Russia, the US, and China have achieved this remarkable feat.
"The successful landing imbibes the confidence in every citizen. Students ambition increases. No future regulation on the Moon can be made without the concurrence of India. So, it would be a paradigm shift event in the Indian context," Chakraborty added.
Underpinning this success to the remarkable contribution of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered systems developed by ISRO and the Indian academia, scientists believe these systems enabled the craft to navigate the lunar surface with precision, detect hazards, and ultimately achieve a safe landing.
Dr. TV Venkateswaran, a scientist at Vigyaan Prasar, an autonomous organisation under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), and member of the public outreach committee of the Astronomical Society of India, lauded this integration of technology, saying that it will inspire young minds and bolster scientific curiosity.
"The safe and soft landing shows that the AI-powered algorithms have worked well. The same algorithms can be tweaked and used to control other autonomous vehicles," Venkateswaran told PTI.
"The success will give a boost to the morale of ISRO and also scientists across the country. Further, it will pave the way for the consistent study of the Moon and the international community. The same technology will also help ISRO land on Mars in a future mission," he added.
The experts also concur that this success is not an endpoint but a stepping stone toward further exploration.
"No future regulation on the Moon can be made without the concurrence of India," Chakraborty emphasised, hinting at the country's newfound influence in shaping lunar exploration policies.
He said the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 resonates as a clarion call for aspiring scientists, space enthusiasts, and the global community at large.
Venkateswaran said the common public may enjoy the fruits of science and technology or have a modicum of exposure to the school's general science curriculum. However, they hardly get an opportunity to experience science in its making.
"The massive coverage and enthusiasm generated by the media outreach allow the common public to share science in the making. The incredible excitement naturally attracts the young towards science and technology,” he added.