Chinese scientist challenges India’s claim of landing near the lunar south pole, asserting that the Chandrayaan-3 rover landed 619 kilometers away from the designated polar region.
The celestial voyage of Chandrayaan-3, India’s moon rover which reportedly marked its footprint near the lunar south pole last month, has stirred a cauldron of controversy. Ouyang Ziyuan, a prominent figure in China’s lunar exploration program, has contested India’s claims, asserting that the rover’s landing was significantly distant from the purported site, further intensifying the existing rivalry between the two Asian giants.
Chandrayaan-3’s Claimed Accomplishment
India’s lunar rover, Chandrayaan-3, embarked on a mission last month, which India claims, has brought the nation to a pioneering position by being the first to land a spacecraft near the lunar south pole. This achievement reportedly surpassed China’s record for the southernmost lunar landing, adding a golden feather to India’s space exploration cap. However, this claim has been contested by leading Chinese scientist Ouyang Ziyuan.
Ouyang Ziyuan’s Contentions
Ouyang Ziyuan, regarded as the father of China’s lunar exploration program, has countered India’s assertions regarding the proximity of Chandrayaan-3’s landing to the lunar south pole. In his statement to the Science Times newspaper, he highlighted that the landing site, located at 69 degrees south latitude, is not within the defined polar region, which ranges between 88.5 and 90 degrees. He emphasized, “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.”
The Debate Over Technological Superiority
Following India’s proclaimed achievement, several Chinese experts have purported that China’s technology in space exploration far exceeds that of India. A senior space expert based in Beijing, Pang Zhihao, was quoted by the Global Times, asserting that China has been capable of orchestrating more advanced maneuvers in space since the launch of Chang’e-2 in 2010, a feat India reportedly has yet to accomplish due to the limited capacity of its launch vehicles.
International Competition to Reach the Lunar South Pole
The lunar south pole has been a point of international interest, not merely for the pride of accomplishment but also for its speculated ice reserves which are deemed valuable for potential long-term lunar stays. Both the US and China are strategizing to send astronauts to this lunar region, reigniting the endeavors to explore the moon since NASA’s Apollo program concluded fifty years ago. Chandrayaan-3’s landing, despite the contention over its exact location, did achieve a substantial southernmost position compared to other spacecraft, surpassing previous attempts by Russia and China.
While ISRO has yet to respond to the claims made by Ouyang Ziyuan, the dispute underscores the strategic importance and the intense international focus on the lunar south pole. Whether Chandrayaan-3 landed near the lunar south pole or not, its journey has certainly propelled the region into the limelight, drawing the world’s attention to the untapped potentials and the new possibilities that the lunar south pole holds.
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