Tensions between India and China have extended into the realm of space exploration following India’s recent achievement in successfully landing Chandrayaan-3 on the moon’s southern pole, surpassing a previous Chinese record. However, a prominent Chinese scientist has disputed the landing site’s location, claiming it is not in the southern pole region or even close to it.
According to the Chinese scientist Ouyang Ziyuan, who played a key role in founding China’s lunar exploration program, the Chandrayaan-3 landing site, at 69 degrees south latitude, is far from the lunar pole, which is defined as being between 88.5 and 90 degrees. On Earth, 69 degrees south would be within the Antarctic Circle, but the lunar equivalent of this circle is much closer to the pole. Ouyang pointed out that the Chandrayaan-3 landed approximately 619 kilometers (385 miles) away from the lunar pole.
After Chandrayaan-3’s successful landing, a Beijing-based senior space expert, Pang Zhihao, claimed that China possessed superior technology, highlighting its capability to send orbiters and landers directly into the Earth-moon transfer orbit since 2010. He also noted that the engine China used was more advanced.
However, it’s worth mentioning that India’s Chandrayaan-3 ventured farther south than any other spacecraft to date. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is currently attempting to re-establish contact with the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover on Chandrayaan-3 after the rover entered sleep mode a week ago. These efforts will continue until the next lunar sunset, scheduled for October 6.
In the broader context of lunar exploration, both the United States and China are focusing on the lunar south pole region as they prepare for future missions to send astronauts to the moon, marking a significant development in space exploration since NASA’s Apollo program concluded 50 years ago.