India has successfully landed a spacecraft near the Moon’s south pole, uncharted territory that scientists believe could hold vital reserves of frozen water and precious elements, as the country cements its growing prowess in space and technology.

As the Chandrayaan-3 lander with a rover inside touched down on the lunar surface, cheers and applause erupted among the space scientists watching in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru.

After a failed attempt nearly four years ago, India made history by becoming the first country to touch down near the little-explored south pole region and joins the United States, the Soviet Union and China in achieving a Moon landing.

India’s successful landing comes just days after Russia’s Luna-25, which was aiming for the same lunar region, spun into an uncontrolled orbit and crashed.


It would have been the first successful Russian lunar landing after a gap of 47 years.

Russia’s head of the state-controlled space corporation Roscosmos attributed the failure to the lack of expertise due to the long break in lunar research that followed the last Soviet mission to the Moon in 1976.

Excited and anxious, people across India, home to the world’s largest population, crowded around televisions in offices, shops, restaurants and homes.

Thousands had prayed on Tuesday for the success of the mission, with oil lamps on river banks, temples and religious places, including the holy city of Varanasi in northern India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen on a livestream broadcast into the Indian Space Research Organisation’s control room, smiling and waving an Indian flag as Chandrayaan-3 landed.

India Lunar MissionSchoolchildren cheer as they watch the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 (Manish Swarup/AP)

“India is now on the Moon,” he said.

Chandrayaan-3 – “moon craft” in Sanskrit – took off from a launchpad in Sriharikota in southern India on July 14.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said in a statement earlier on Wednesday: “India’s pursuit of space exploration reaches a remarkable milestone with the impending Chandrayaan-3 mission, poised to achieve a soft landing on the lunar surface.

“This achievement marks a significant step forward for Indian science, engineering, technology, and industry, symbolising our nation’s progress in space exploration.”

It said a successful Chandrayaan-3 landing would be monumental in fuelling curiosity and sparking a passion for exploration among youth.

“It generates a profound sense of pride and unity as we collectively celebrate the prowess of Indian science and technology. It will contribute to fostering an environment of scientific inquiry and innovation,” it said.

The US State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs tweeted: “Your success will power the imagination and light the future of people around the world.”

The European Space Agency’s director general Josef Aschbacher tweeted: “Incredible! I am thoroughly impressed.”

Nasa’s former science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, who now works at ETH Zurich, a public research university in Switzerland where he is leading its space initiative, said he felt proud of the achievement.

Nasa administrator Bill Nelson tweeted: “Congratulations @isro on your successful Chandrayaan-3 lunar South Pole landing! And congratulations to India on being the 4th country to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon. We’re glad to be your partner on this mission!”

India Lunar MissionIndians celebrate the successful landing (Manish Swarup/AP)

Many countries and private companies are interested in the south pole region of the Moon because permanently shadowed craters may hold frozen water that could help future astronaut missions.

The six-wheeled lander and rover module of Chandrayaan-3 is configured with payloads that will provide data to the scientific community on the properties of lunar soil and rocks, including chemical and elemental compositions.

India’s previous attempt to land a robotic spacecraft near the Moon’s little-explored south pole ended in failure in 2019.

It entered the lunar orbit but lost touch with its lander, which crashed while making its final descent to deploy a rover to search for signs of water.

According to a failure analysis report submitted to Isro, the crash was caused by a software glitch.

The 140-million US dollar (£110 million) mission in 2019 was intended to study permanently shadowed moon craters that are thought to contain water deposits and were confirmed by India’s Chandrayaan-1 orbiter mission in 2008.

With nuclear-armed India emerging as the world’s fifth-largest economy last year, Mr Modi’s nationalist government is eager to showcase India’s rising standing as a technology and space powerhouse.

A successful Moon mission dovetails with his image of an ascendant India asserting its place among the global elite and will help bolster his popularity ahead of a crucial general election next year.

The anticipation for a successful landing rose after Russia’s failed attempt and as India’s regional rival, China, reaches for new milestones in space.

In May, China launched a three-person crew for its orbiting space station and hopes to put astronauts on the Moon before the end of the decade.

India Lunar MissionIndian Space Research Organisation staff watch Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak after the successful landing of spacecraft Chandrayaan-3 on the Moon (Aijaz Rahi/AP)

Relations between India and China have plunged since deadly border clashes in 2020.

Numerous countries and private companies are racing to successfully land a spacecraft on the lunar surface.

In April, a Japanese company’s spacecraft apparently crashed while attempting to land on the Moon, and an Israeli non-profit organisation tried to achieve a similar feat in 2019, but its spacecraft was destroyed on impact.

Japan plans to launch a lunar lander to the Moon over the weekend as part of an X-ray telescope mission, and two US companies are also vying to put landers on the Moon by the end of the year, one of them at the south pole.

In the coming years, Nasa plans to land astronauts at the lunar south pole, taking advantage of the frozen water in craters.