India-China Space Race: Top Chinese Scientist disputes Chandrayaan-3’s claim to south pole Moon landing

The rivalry between India and China has extended into outer space. With the successful landing of the Chandrayaan-3 on the moon last month, India has become the first country to put a spacecraft near the lunar south pole and broke China’s record for the southernmost lunar landing. 

However, a top Chinese scientist has now claimed that the landing site of Chandrayaan-3 is not at the lunar south pole, not in the lunar south pole region, nor is it near the lunar south pole region. 

Speaking to the Chinese-language Science Times newspaper, Ouyang Ziyuan who is lauded as the father of China’s lunar exploration program said the Chandrayaan-3 landing site, at 69 degrees south latitude, was nowhere close to the pole, defined as between 88.5 and 90 degrees.

On Earth, 69 degrees south would be within the Antarctic Circle, but the lunar version of the circle is much closer to the pole. The Chandrayaan-3 was 619 kilometers (385 miles) distant from the polar region, Ouyang said.

After the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3, Pang Zhihao, a Beijing-based senior space expert, said that China had much better technology, Bloomberg reported. 

“China’s space program has been capable of sending orbiters and landers directly into Earth-Moon transfer orbit since the launch of Chang’e-2 in 2010, a maneuver that India has yet to deliver given the limited capacity of its launch vehicles. The engine that China used is also far more advanced,” Zhihao said. 

Still, India’s Chandrayaan-3 went much farther south than any other spacecraft. Currently, ISRO is waiting to establish contact with Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander and Pragyan rover. The Indian space agency will continue attempts to revive the Chandrayaan-3 lander and rover till the next sunset on the Moon which is slated for October 6.

China’s Chang’e 4, the first to land on the far side of the moon in 2019, touched down 45 degrees south. An uncrewed NASA probe, Surveyor 7, reached the moon at about 41 degrees south in 1968.

The US and China are both looking to the area for their upcoming plans to send astronauts to the moon for the first time since NASA’s Apollo program ended a half-century ago.


(With Bloomberg inputs)

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Updated: 28 Sep 2023, 12:39 PM IST

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