India shares video proof of its phenomenal moon landing and rover

Chandrayaan: Yes, they did.
By Elisha Sauers  on 
India's rover rolling onto the moon
India's rover Pragyan has rolled out of the lander onto the moon and has traveled about nine yards so far, according to the Indian Space Research Organization. Credit: ISRO / X screenshot

The world celebrated India on its historic moon landing Wednesday, as it became the first space program to reach the lunar south pole region with a robotic spacecraft.

But in the words of a cynical internet meme: Pics, or it didn't happen. And, as Apollo moon-landing deniers have taught us, even pictures sometimes aren't enough to convince folks inclined to believe conspiracy theories.

So the Indian Space Research Organization — NASA's counterpart — obliged skeptics, sharing a photo of its Chandrayaan-3 lander on the ground, with one leg visibly sticking out. Not since Angelina Jolie presented at the Oscars in 2012 has a leg had such an illustrious moment.

"And here at last is ISRO issuing an official post-landing image from the Chandrayaan-3 lander, which is the final confirmation we needed of a successful landing. Congrats to all those involved in the mission," said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The space agency has since followed up with a two-minute video of the spacecraft descending onto the moon's surface. The video was taken by the Lander Imager Camera, which assisted in finding a safe spot to land — without boulders or deep trenches — during the landing. Another brief video shows the six-wheeled golden rover, Pragyan, rolling out of the spacecraft.

For the majority of the landing video, all that can be seen is the lunar terrain whizzing past in the background. It looks like miles upon miles of gray sponge cake, full of dimples and pockmarks. In the last 13 seconds, the camera angle appears to adjust to a more upright position and gradually lowers down.

You can watch the full video in the post below.

The success of Chandrayaan-3, which means "moon craft" in Hindi, places India among an elite cadre — the former Soviet Union, United States, and China — who have landed on the moon 239,000 miles away. The victory comes four years after India's preceding mission, Chandrayaan-2, crashed attempting the same feat.

India's accomplishment follows mere days after the Russian space agency Roscosmos lost its Luna-25 robotic spacecraft, which had been orbiting the moon but apparently crashed after a botched flight maneuver. The dueling missions were both trying to set their crewless spacecraft down near the south pole this week.

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ISRO celebrating moon landing success
People watching India's moon landing from mission control applaud confirmation of a smooth touchdown Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. Credit: ISRO / Youtube screenshot

About 60 years have passed since the first uncrewed moon landings, but touching down is still onerous, with less than half of all missions succeeding.

Many nations and private ventures have set their sights on the unspoiled dark and craggy lunar region because of its ice, thought to be buried in the polar craters. The natural resource is coveted because it could supply drinking water, air, and rocket fuel for future missions, ushering a new era in spaceflight.

Shortly after touching down, Pragyan, looking like a gilded pinewood derby car, deboarded the lander and rolled onto the moon. A solar panel is helping the rover generate power. A 30-second video in the post above shows it crawling down its unfurled ramp.

The rover has so far traveled close to nine yards on the surface, according to ISRO. Officials say all of its instruments and systems are performing properly. Over two weeks, the mission will conduct experiments, such as a study of the chemicals and minerals in the lunar soil.

And, hopefully, India will have more photographic proof of Pragyan's adventures.

Mashable Image
Elisha Sauers

Elisha Sauers is the space and future tech reporter for Mashable, interested in asteroids, astronauts, and astro nuts. In over 15 years of reporting, she's covered a variety of topics, including health, business, and government, with a penchant for FOIA and other public records requests. She previously worked for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia, and The Capital in Annapolis, Maryland, now known as The Capital-Gazette. Her work has earned numerous state awards, including the Virginia Press Association's top honor, Best in Show,  and national recognition for narrative storytelling. In her first year covering space for Mashable, Sauers grabbed a National Headliner Award for beat reporting. Send space tips and story ideas to [email protected] or text 443-684-2489. Follow her on Twitter at @elishasauers.

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