As soon as Chandrayaan-3’s lander Vikram and it’s passenger rover Pragyan touched down close to Earth’s Moon south pole on August 23rd, 2023 at 18:02 IST, India became the first country to successfully land a spacecraft near the lunar south pole and the fourth country to soft-land on the Moon.
As an outsider looking in, I could only imagine the swell of excitement as Indian students gathered around screens awaiting the first images from Chandrayaan-3’s lunar landing. When the lander appeared, partially shrouded in moon dust, a cheer likely arose. But it was the glimpse of the ramp lowering from the lander that surely sparked unbridled joy. For we all knew what this meant – soon India’s rover would emerge, rolling onto the lunar surface to begin its momentous work. As the students doubtless embraced in celebration, I envisioned this was not just the achievement of scientists but of an entire nation. The promise of new discovery and expanded space capabilities had culminated in this soft lunar landing. Through Chandrayaan-3, India had staked its rightful claim as an elite space exploration power.
India’s Space Sector Advancements
India’s thriving space program is a testament to the rapid advancement of its tech sector. The country’s renowned engineering talent and IT capabilities enabled it to achieve this controlled moon landing at a fraction of the cost for other major powers.
This demonstrates India’s potential to take the lead in the 21st century space economy. Nations worldwide would benefit from collaborating with India’s space companies to accelerate development of their own aerospace and satellite industries.
Implications for Global Space Leadership
For too long many have seen India’s space program as playing catch up. But Chandrayaan-3 signals its status as a leader has arrived.
This moon landing should inspire established space powers to forge new partnerships and learn from India’s burgeoning expertise. Exchanging ideas and researchers can help develop their workforces. Joint missions can propel space technology faster than competing alone. India’s prowess makes it an attractive partner for missions, including human spaceflight where others have more experience. Because collaboration, not competition, will be key to advancing space development in this century.
Inspired by India’s Giant Leap, should Europe now Make Its Own?
For Europe, who has collaborated with India on space initiatives, this moon landing represents a wake-up call. India’s giant leap underscores that the time is now for Europe to invest and engage more deeply in space exploration and development.
I admire the vision of Jean-Jacques Dordain, who led the European Space Agency (ESA) for 12 years. He understood that space is not only a scientific and technological frontier, but also a source of inspiration and aspiration for humanity. He recognized that space can improve our lives on Earth, enhance our security and prosperity, and satisfy our curiosity and desire for discovery. He also encouraged the young generation to pursue their dreams and passions in science and technology. He was a true leader and a champion of space exploration.
ESA has been supporting the Chandrayaan-3 mission with its deep space communication network, providing vital data links between the spacecraft and the ground stations. ESA has also been collaborating with India on other space projects, such as Aditya-L1, India’s first solar mission. I hope that this partnership will continue to grow and flourish, as both India and Europe share a common vision of peaceful and sustainable exploration of space. Partnership, not competition, will advance space capabilities faster than going it alone. Chandrayaan-3’s triumph should ignite Europe’s scientists and engineers to take up the challenge to be the next space agency to land on the moon. The moon awaits human curiosity, ingenuity, and bravery. India’s success lights the adventurous way forward if Europe chooses to take its own giant leap.
Carmel Vincent Cassar
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