The moon rover of India’s Chandrayaan-3 has exited the spacecraft to begin its exploration of the lunar surface, the country’s space agency said on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
The spacecraft landed on the unexplored south pole of the moon on Wednesday evening, days after Russia’s Luna-25 failed, making India the first country to achieve that feat.
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“The Ch-3 Rover ramped down from the Lander and India took a walk on the moon!” the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said in its message on Thursday morning.
The six-wheeled, solar-powered rover, named Pragyan (or wisdom” in Sanskrit) will amble around the relatively unmapped region and transmit images and scientific data over its two-week lifespan.
Accomplished with a budget of about 6.15bn Indian rupees ($74.58m), this was India’s second attempt to touch down on the moon. A previous mission in 2019, Chandrayaan-2, successfully deployed an orbiter but its lander crashed.
Chandrayaan means “moon vehicle” in Hindi and Sanskrit.
The moon’s rugged south pole is coveted because of its water ice, which is believed to be capable of providing fuel, oxygen and drinking water for future missions, but its rough terrain makes landing challenging.
People across the country tuned in to watch the landing on Wednesday, with more than seven million people viewing the YouTube livestream alone.
Prayers were also held at places of worship, and schools organised live screenings of the spectacle for students.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Wednesday that the successful lunar landing – previously achieved only by the United States, Russia and China – was a triumph for “all of humanity”.
Elon Musk, whose firm SpaceX is a leader in commercial space launches, hailed the landing as “super cool”.
India has a comparatively low-budget space programme, but one that has grown considerably in size and momentum since it first sent a probe to orbit the moon in 2008.
Chandrayaan-3’s cost was far lower than many missions from other countries and a testament to India’s frugal space engineering.
In 2014, India became the first Asian nation to put a craft into orbit around Mars and plans to send a probe towards the sun in September.
ISRO is slated to launch a three-day crewed mission into Earth’s orbit by next year.
It also plans a joint mission with Japan to send another probe to the Moon by 2025 and an orbital mission to Venus within the next two years.