India wants to be a space power

India is scheduled to launch an unmanned lunar spacecraft today (14 July) that’s designed “to demonstrate end-to-end capability in safe landing and roving on the lunar surface.”

Success is no guarantee. The $73M spacecraft, known as Chandrayaan-3 (aka ‘moon vehicle’), will undertake India’s third mission to the Moon, and its second attempt to soft-land there (Chandrayaan-2 crash landed).

Intrigue’s take: This is mostly about prestige. Only three players – the US, the Soviet Union, and China – have ever soft-landed a rover on the Moon. Others, like Israel and Japan, have tried and failed in recent years.

So there’s a solid gulf between the have-landed-on-the-moons and the have-nots. And India sees a lunar landing as its ticket to exit the pantheon of middle powers and take its place among the big dogs.

Also worth noting:

  • The Chandrayaan-3 aims to be the first spacecraft to land on the Moon’s south pole, which may hold the majority of the Moon’s ice.
  • Russia plans to launch its Luna-25 lunar lander in August; the US next plans to send astronauts to the Moon in 2025.
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