With its Chandrayaan-3 lander, India became the first nation to set foot close to the Moon’s south pole on August 23, 2023. Additionally, it is now the first nation to set foot on the Moon since China in 2020.
India is one of many nations making an effort to set foot on the moon, along with the US and its Artemis program. The Moon’s south pole is particularly interesting because it hasn’t been explored before. Its surface is marred by craters, trenches, and pockets of ancient ice.
International affairs specialist Mariel Borowitz was questioned by The Conversation US on the effects of this Moon landing on science and the global community.
Why are countries like India looking to go to the Moon?
Countries are interested in sending astronauts to the Moon because it can motivate people, push the frontier of technological innovation, and help us learn more about our solar system.
Anyone in the globe can gaze up at the night sky, see the Moon, and comprehend how remarkable it is that a spaceship made by humans is roaming around the surface. The Moon has a historical and cultural significance that truly seems to resonate with people.
The moon also offers a singular chance to participate in peaceful, yet highly conspicuous, international collaboration and rivalry.
There are numerous potential to establish new alliances given the involvement of so many countries, including the United States, Russia, China, India, Israel, and even commercial groups.
These collaborations foster more peaceful coexistence on Earth by uniting lone researchers and organizations, and they can enable governments to accomplish more in space by pooling resources.
Some individuals also think that moon exploration will be profitable economically. This might soon include the establishment of new businesses focused on space technology that will support these missions. Recently, the number of space startups has exploded in India.
Based on the natural resources that can be found there, like as water, helium-3, and rare Earth elements, the Moon may eventually bring about economic benefits.
Are we seeing new global interest in space?
The number of countries engaged in space activity has significantly increased over the previous few decades. When it comes to satellites that gather photos or data about the Earth, for instance, this is extremely clear.
These kinds of satellite missions have involved more than 60 nations. This trend is now spreading to space exploration, and the Moon in particular.
Similar objectives to those of the first space race in the 1960s, including showcasing technological advancements and impressing the general public, are motivating interest in the Moon.
However, there are more than two superpowers involved in the contest this time. With so many players now, there is still room for competition, but there is also room for collaboration and the creation of fresh, worldwide collaborations for space exploration.
Additionally, there is a chance to engage in more sustainable exploration given the influx of new players and technological advancements over the past 60 years. This might entail setting up outposts on the Moon, devising methods for using its resources, and eventually engaging in tourism or natural resource-based commercial activity there.
How does India’s voyage to the moon compare to those of other nations?
The achievement by India is the first of its sort and is quite thrilling, but it’s important to remember that there are currently seven missions working on and near the Moon.
Along with South Korea’s Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, which is studying the Moon’s surface to determine potential landing sites, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and India’s Chandrayaan-3 rover near the south pole, there are also several other spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon. These include the NASA-funded CAPSTONE spacecraft and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is gathering information about the Moon and charting locations for upcoming missions, while the CAPSTONE spacecraft is investigating the stability of an unusual lunar orbit.
In addition, although India’s Chandrayaan-2 rover crashed, the orbiter it was attached to is still in use. The Chang’e-4 and Chang’e-5 lunar landers from China are still in operation.
Other countries and business organizations are attempting to join. Three days before Chandrayaan-3 arrived, Russia’s Luna-25 mission crashed into the Moon, but the fact that Russia created the rover and got so close is still a noteworthy accomplishment.
The commercial Japanese space company ispace’s lunar lander could be compared to that. The Moon was struck by the lander in April 2023.
Why was the Moon’s south pole chosen for exploration?
Nations are concentrating their exploration efforts at the south pole of the moon. For the Artemis program, all 13 of NASA’s potential landing sites are close to the south pole.
The best chance of finding water ice, which may be used to sustain humans and produce rocket fuel, lies in this region. Additionally, it includes peaks that get continuous or nearly continuous sunshine, which offers fantastic prospects for producing electricity to support lunar operations.