India's Chandrayaan-3 lands on Moon, becoming 4th country to touchdown on lunar surface

India joins the U.S., the former Soviet Union and China to successfully land on the Moon. Chandrayaan-3 is the first mission to land on the lunar South Pole.

India became the fourth country to successfully land on the Moon with the Chandrayaan-3 robotic mission, just days after Russia's lander failed to touch down on the lunar surface.

Cheers and applause erupted at the India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) mission control on Wednesday when telemetry confirmed a soft landing on the lunar South Pole of the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

"I reached my destination and you too!" a message from Chandrayaan-3 read.

ISRO's live coverage of the landing included a side-by-side of the spacecraft with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose reaction was broadcast in real-time. 

Smiling, Modi waved a small Indian flag right after the landing. "India is now on the moon," Modi said.

Congratulations from space officials around the world were pouring on Wednesday after the milestone landing.

NASA's series of arrays on Earth known as the Deep Space Network were used by ISRO to track and communicate with the spacecraft throughout the spaceflight to the Moon.

"Congratulations ISRO on your successful Chandrayaan-3 lunar South Pole landing!" NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wrote on X. "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's success follows Russian crash landing on the Moon

India joins the U.S., the former Soviet Union and China to successfully land on the Moon and is the first to land at the lunar South Pole. 

The world was watching to see if India's second landing attempt would be a success. Chandrayaan-3 is a follow-up to India's Chandrayaan-2 mission, and consists of a lunar lander, called Vikram, and a small rover, named Pragyan. The Chandrayaan-2 mission ended with the lander crash-landing on the Moon in 2019, however, the spacecraft continues to send data, according to the ISRO.


NASA's former head of science Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen was in Switzerland watching the landing. 

"I watched --we all did. So proud of our ISRO friends! Wow-congrats," Zurbuchen said. "The entire staff of (the) Swiss Space Office and reps of top universities were watching and delayed their meeting!"

The rover and lander are designed to operate for about 14 days on the lunar surface, collecting data with a suite of science instruments. 

ISRO has been testing the lander's scientific instruments and cameras since the landing. Hours after touchdown, ISRO shared images taken from the lander of the South Pole with a shadow of the lander's leg in the image.

India's success comes a few days after Russia's Luna-25 spacecraft crashed into the Moon on Monday, ending the first Russian lunar landing attempt in nearly 50 years. 

The Moon's South Pole is an unexplored area of the lunar surface and also where NASA plans to land humans in the next few years as part of the Artemis program. Craters on the South Pole are believed to contain water ice, which could be harvested to create fuel and resources for further space exploration.