The World Today for September 14, 2023


Breaking Through the Sky


The Vikram Moon lander recently hopped across the lunar surface, using its thrusters to float up almost 16 inches above the surface, and then moving another 16 inches laterally. It was the latest inspiring turn in India’s new participation in the global race to explore space.

“Importance?: This ‘kick-start’ enthuses future sample return and human missions!” wrote the Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, on X, as Twitter is now known. The post includes a video of lunar dust being thrown about above a rocky, pockmarked landscape.

Since setting down on the Moon’s remote south pole on Aug. 23, the lander, part of the Chandrayaan-3 mission that includes a second rover also presently on the Moon, has sparked conversations about geopolitics on Earth.

Indians justifiably celebrated the landing, noted Reuters. Most eyes in the country of more than 1.4 billion people, now the most populous in the world, were glued to their television sets or other screens to watch it. Seven million people, for instance, tuned into a live stream of the landing on YouTube.

As Foreign Policy magazine explained, the event certainly heralded India as a more robust, more powerful country in the coming years. It is the fourth country to make a soft landing on the Moon, joining other countries generally regarded as powers that help shape the planet’s destiny: China, the now-defunct Soviet Union, and the United States.

The country’s economic clout is growing, too: It’s already the world’s fifth-largest economy, the Economist noted. Investors are lining up as many look for an alternative to China. Recently, for example, Apple opened its first store in India while Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics firm, broke ground on a $500 million factory.

Its political cachet, meanwhile, is on the rise. It recently hosted the G20 and US President Joe Biden in bilateral meetings aimed at countering China’s influence and increasing business and defense ties. That followed a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US in June, where the Indian leader was feted by the White House with a rare formal banquet, and was invited to address both houses of Congress, for the second time.

Meanwhile, in terms of scientific advancements, India is already making solid progress in living up to its high-power status. For example, the lander detected a potential moonquake, a small seismic event underneath the satellite’s surface, noted Nature. The Sun, a British tabloid, described the findings as “mysterious.” Other discoveries were more mundane. The Moon’s south pole, ISRO researchers also found, has a thin ionosphere, which is good for radio transmissions.

India plans to leverage space to diversify and boost its economy, the Guardian contended in an analysis. Modi wants to expand his country’s share of the global space market by more than 500 percent in the next 10 years. He especially aims to market India as a low-cost supplier of space launch services.

The success and popularity of the Chandrayaan-3 mission provides an example of how developing countries struggling with poverty and other issues can leverage their human talents to prosper, the New York Times added.

As Modi said at the start of the mission, for India, the sky is not the limit.

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