Over the moon

This month commemorates the 54th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon, where Neil Armstrong uttered those im­mortal words: “This is a small step for a man, but a giant leap for man­kind. While no man has landed on the Moon since 1972, when the US Apollo missions concluded, the US, Russia, and China have dispatched numerous unmanned probes to lu­nar orbit and the Moon itself in the intervening five decades.

With the successful landing of the Chandrayaan-3 (literally lunar spacecraft) probe, India has become only the fourth country to send a ro­botic probe to the Moon. Significant­ly, it landed on the moon’s large­ly unexplored South Pole, a first by any country. The successful landing was significant from another per­spective: a prior attempt by India’s Chandrayaan-2 ended in a crash landing in 2019. This space probe’s landing is timely since recent re­search suggests that the lunar poles might harbour trace amounts of water, which will be essential for potential human settlements on the oon. The US indeed plans to re­alise this vision in the next decade through its manned spaceflight pro­gramme, Artemis. Several private US companies are also planning car­go missions to the Moon.

With the success of Chandray­aan-3, India has overshadowed both the US and Russia, whose own Luna-25 craft crash-landed on the Moon just a couple of days earli­er, significantly embarrassing the Russian space agency Roscosmos. Japan also experienced a similar failure when a probe sent by the private company ISpace crash-land­ed on the moon a few months ago.

While some question the value of space exploration amidst Earth’s myriad problems, gaining insights into other worlds provides insights into our own. Moreover, humanity’s inherent drive to explore has led to progress—had early humans not ventured beyond Africa in search of the Great Unknown, we would re­main confined to that continent. Now, we are venturing forth in search of other worlds. Given the havoc that climate change is wreaking on Earth, researching other universes may of­fer insights into saving our own.



ePaper - Nawaiwaqt