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India has landed its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the moon, becoming only the fourth country to achieve such a feat.
The mission could cement India's status as a global superpower in space. So far, only the United States, China, and the former Soviet Union have performed 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. The South Pole region is considered an area of key scientific and strategic interest for spacefaring nations because scientists believe it is the region's homewater iceInsoles.
The water frozencute crater, could be converted into rocket fuel or even drinking water for future manned missions.
A former NASA astronaut explains why the moon's south pole is of particular interest
00:45 - Those:CNN
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently in South Africa for the BRICS summit, virtually watched the landing and shared his livestreamed remarks.
"On this joyful occasion, I would like to address everyone in the world," he said. “India's successful moon mission is not just India's only one. This is a year in which the world is witnessing India's G20 Presidency. Our One Earth, One Family, One Future approach resonates around the world.
“This human-centric approach that we are presenting and advocating has been universally welcomed. Our lunar mission is also based on the same human-centric approach,” Modi added. "Therefore, this success belongs to all of humanity and it will also support moon missions in other countries in the future."
India's attempt to land its spacecraft near the lunar south pole comes just days after another nation's failed attempt to do the same. Russia's Luna 25 spacecraftcrashed into the moonon Aug. 19 after its engines misfired, ending the country's first lunar landing attempt in 47 years.
The Journey of Chandrayaan-3
As Chandrayaan-3 approached the moon, its cameras snapped photos, including one from Aug. 20 that the Indian Space Agency released on Tuesday. The image offers a close-up of the Moon's dusty gray surface.
India's lunar lander consists of three parts: a lander, a rover and a propulsion module, which gave the spacecraft the thrust it needed to traverse the 384,400 km (238,855 miles) gap between the Moon and Earth.
The lander, named Vikram, performed the precision maneuvers needed for a smooth landing on the lunar surface after being ejected from the propulsion module. Hidden inside is Pragyan, a small six-wheeled rover that launches from the lander by rolling down a ramp.
Vikram used the onboard engines to carefully orient itself as it neared the lunar surface and slowly throttled its engines to land just after 6 p.m. IST (8:30 a.m. ET) as applause erupted from the mission control room.
Later the Indian Space Research Organization, short ISROconfirmedIt 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 pound) rover are packed with scientific instruments primed to collect data to help researchers analyze the lunar surface and to provide new insights into their 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 professor of research at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, said she's particularly excited that the lunar lander will have a seismometer that will try to detect tremors inside the moon.
Studying how the moon's inner layers move could provide important information for future endeavors on the lunar surface, Marusiak said.
"You want to make sure that potential seismic activity doesn't endanger astronauts," Marusiak said. "Or, if we built structures on the moon, they would be safe from any seismic activity."
The lander and rover are expected to function on the lunar surface for about two weeks. The propulsion module remains in orbit and serves as a relay point for transmitting data back to Earth.
A global lunar rush
workalliesLike the United States and France, India is part of a second wave of emerging space powers. The country's space program has become one of the most active in the world in the development of space exploration technology.
Chandrayaan-3 was a point of national pride and widespread interest throughout India. Crowds gathered atLaunchpadat the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh state, to observe the mission's flight in July. On Wednesday, more than 8 million people tuned in to watch a live stream of the landing.
Children at a school in Guwahati, India, celebrate the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the moon on Wednesday.
At least 500 people gathered at India's Scientific and Industrial Research Council in New Delhi on Wednesday, where the live stream was broadcast in an auditorium and outdoors in a temporary pavilion. After a successful touchdown was confirmed, Indian sweets were distributed to the crowd, firecrackers were set off, and spectators applauded for more than a minute.
There were chants of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" - or "Victory for India" - and children happily waved the Indian flag.
India's mission has become even more important since Russia's failed attempt to land Luna 25. With the success of Chandrayaan-3, India became the second country in the 21st century to land a spacecraft on the moon, after China, which has placed three landers on the lunar surface since 2013 - including the first to land on the moonfar side. (The last US 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 have plans for missions to the moon in the coming years, including a mission by Japan's space agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which is expected to launch later this month. The US also has posting plansthree commercial lunar landersThe mission to the moon begins as early as this year, while NASA continues to work on 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 recently crashed on the lunar surface - one of themIsraelin 2019 and the other fromJapanIn 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 attempts to revisit the surface lately." 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 notesocial media, said: "Congratulations to#Ifabout being the fourth country to have successfully landed a spacecraft softly on the moon. We look forward to being your partner in this mission!”
India is also a signatory to the United States' Artemis Convention, a document outlining proposed rules for future lunar exploration. Russia and China have not signed the agreements.
CNN's Irene Nasser contributed to this story.