In mid-July when Neowin published This Week in Rocket Launches (TWIRL) #123, the launch of the Chandrayaan-3 Indian lunar mission was included in the recap section. Today, the country attempted to put the lander on the moon and succeeded, making it just the fourth country in history to reach the moon.
The other countries that successfully touched down on the moon are the United States (US), the former Soviet Union, and China. India’s attempt to land on the moon comes just days after Russia attempted something similar, but that lander crashed into Earth’s biggest satellite (the moon!)
Aside from Russia, which has yet to land on the moon (post-Soviet), Israel and Japan have attempted to get landers on the moon, albeit via companies, but these attempts ended in failure. Japan’s ispace wants to try again next year and Israel’s SpaceIL wants to try in 2025. By then, they could have been beaten by Canada, Mexico, and Finland.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission also includes a rover component so we will have to see how that performs following the landing. The US, USSR, and China have all successfully operated a rover on the moon but India is yet to do this. If this rover works OK it’ll put them even further ahead in this new space race.
Even if everything goes to plan with this mission, India won’t have one key accomplishment under its belt that the USSR had and China has; a return mission. The United States has done a return mission and also the final accomplishment of a crewed landing.
The upcoming decade is going to be incredibly exciting in terms of moon missions. The flagship mission to watch is the United States’ Artemis mission, the first of which has already been completed.
The next Artemis mission will be Artemis 2 and that’s due to take off in November 2024. It will see NASA launch four astronauts – Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and Jeremy Hansen – on a flyby mission to the moon before returning to Earth.
In 2025, NASA is aiming to land astronauts on the moon, but realistically, this target could slip, the Artemis program has experienced several slips so far significantly impacting launch dates.