Indian scientists have disputed claims made by a top scientist in China’s space program, who argued that the Chandrayaan-3 mission did not land at or near the lunar south pole. Ouyang Ziyuan, a cosmochemist and geochemist, stated that the landing site of Chandrayaan-3 was not in the lunar south pole region and was significantly far away from it. He pointed out that the Moon’s smaller axial tilt meant that its southern polar region spanned between 88.5 and 90 degrees, while Chandrayaan-3 landed at a latitude of 69 degrees, which is much further away.
This disagreement highlights the growing scientific rivalry between China and India in the field of lunar exploration. Both countries have plans to reach the lunar south pole in the near future. China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) announced its intention to land near the lunar south pole next year as part of the Chang’e-6 mission. The CNSA aims to dispatch a rover to collect rock samples for transport back to Earth, a feat that only China, the US, and the former Soviet Union have achieved before. Meanwhile, India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, despite not reaching the lunar south pole, landed further south than any previous moon mission, including NASA’s 1968 probe at 41 degrees south and China’s 2019 mission at 54 degrees south on the far side of the Moon.
The reaction to the Chandrayaan-3 landing in China has been mixed. While the government did not formally congratulate India on its achievement, some Chinese scientists expressed their sincere congratulations to New Delhi. However, a Beijing-based “senior space expert,” Pang Zhihao, claimed that China possesses more advanced rockets and lunar rovers than those used in the Chandrayaan-3 mission.
The rivalry between China and India extends beyond the realm of space exploration. Despite being members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS group, the two countries have clashed over various geopolitical issues in recent years. This includes disputes over Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea and conflicts along their Himalayan border.
In addition to China and India, other countries have also set their sights on lunar exploration. Japan recently launched its “Moon sniper” mission with the goal of achieving a pinpoint landing within just 100 meters of its target site. The mission aims to deploy a probe on the Moon by next year. These ongoing missions reflect the increasing interest and investment in lunar exploration worldwide.
In conclusion, the dispute between Chinese and Indian scientists over the landing site of the Chandrayaan-3 mission highlights the intensifying scientific rivalry between the two countries. While China plans to land near the lunar south pole next year, India’s mission, though not reaching the intended target, landed further south than any previous moon mission. This competition in lunar exploration reflects the global interest in space science and the pursuit of technological advancements.