India wants to fly its own astronauts to the moon, after becoming the first nation to land near the lunar south pole

Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed India's intention to send people to the moon in the near future as the nation celebrated the successful landing of the world's first-ever robotic mission to the lunar south pole region.

India's Chandrayaan-3 probe defeated all odds on August 23 after it managed to successfully land near the south pole of the moon, beating competing nations to the strategically important site.

With the landing, India has become the fourth nation — after Russia, the US, and China — to land on the moon.

"It definitely puts them on the international stage as an emerging space power," Robert Braun, head of space exploration at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, told Insider.

The nation will build on this mission success by launching its first crewed mission to the moon, Modi said in Hindi during a livestream of the landing, Sky News reported.

room full of men watches narendra modi on a screen under a white ceiling
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) staff watch Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak after the landing of spacecraft Chandrayaan-3 on the moon.Aijaz Rahi/AP Photo

"India is now on the moon," said Modi, per the BBC.

The nation "will look into a human flight mission as well for the future," he said, per Sky News.

Indian astronauts to Earth's orbit and beyond

man poses in white waving astronaut uniform with india flag patches on each shoulder
Astronaut Rakesh Sharma, the only Indian national to have flown into space, poses behind an Indian astronaut uniform.Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images

India has previously said it will attempt a crewed mission to low-Earth orbit by late 2024, the Times of India reported.

"India is showing and proving that the sky is not the limit," said Modi per Sky News.

white rocket with two boosters on its sides launches through clouds with flames shooting out of boosters
Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-3 launches from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.Aijaz Rahi/AP Photo

Per the Indian Space Research Organisation, India plans to first launch two uncrewed missions, Gaganyaan 1 and 2, the first of which is planned by the end of this year. The missions should test the capacity of the nation's rocket, LVM3.

This should be followed by the nation's first crewed mission, which will aim to send three astronauts to low-Earth orbit for a three-day mission.

India nailed a difficult feat amid multiple moon crashes

surface of moon grey rocky cratered with luna 25 spacecraft piece visible in upper left corner
The lunar south pole region on the far side of the moon, captured by Russia's Luna-25 spacecraft, before its failed attempt to land.Centre for Operation of Space Ground-Based Infrastructure-Roscosmos State Space Corporation via AP

The Chandrayaan-3 mission, which successfully landed the Vikram lander near the south pole of the moon, cemented India's position as a frontrunner in the race to the moon.

The south polar region is strategically important because scientists believe water ice is present in the area. The hope is this water could someday support humans living on the moon and help manufacture fuel for rockets launching from the moon to Mars.

Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, tried to land its own robotic mission near the south pole of the moon, but on August 20 it misfired its engines and crashed.

Both Japanese private company ispace and Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL have also crashed on the moon in recent years.

India's first attempt at the lunar south pole region in 2019, called Chandrayaan-2, crashed as well. Clearly the Indian space agency learned a lot from that failed landing.

"Last time they got to the playoffs, if you will, and this time they won the Super Bowl," Braun said.

Correction: August 28, 2023 — An earlier version of this article misstated Robert Braun's title. He is head of space exploration at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, not head of a Space Exploration Center there.

Correction August 23, 2023: An earlier version of this article misstated which entities have tried to land on the lunar south pole. Two countries have attempted this feat so far: India and Russia. Only India has succeeded. An earlier version of this article also misstated the planned orbit of India's first crewed mission. It's expected to orbit Earth.

This post has also been updated with new information. It was originally published on August 23, 2023.

Editor's note September 1, 2023: This article has been updated to clarify that India's spacecraft landed in the lunar south pole region, not on the point of the lunar south pole.

Read the original article on Business Insider