Chandrayaan-3 Succeeds in Moon Landing, Does India Surpass Russia?

India’s Moon landing mission, Chandrayaan-3, has achieved success, while Russia failed to explore the Moon as Luna-25 couldn’t land successfully. So, does this mean India is ahead of Russia?
Former astronaut of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Leroy Chiao, believes that many countries are creating and continuing civilian space programs. However, since the beginning of the space race, the greatest motivation has been to enhance national prestige, both domestically and internationally.

This is what propelled India to become the fourth country to successfully land a probe on the Moon last week.

This achievement marks a significant milestone for a space program that has recently emerged and progressed steadily over the years.

“I hope future successes continue: Delhi has shown its commitment to invest considerably in space exploration efforts,” said Chiao as quoted by CNN.

At the start of the space era, the Soviet Union (now called Russia) understood well how a successful space program could improve its standing on the international stage. They were the first to reach the Moon with the launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957.

Although this satellite only emitted a simple signal, the implications of its launch were enormous.

Following that, there were further advancements, including the first animal in orbit (the dog Laika in 1957) and the first human in space (Yuri Gagarin in 1961).

As Russia achieved success after success in space, the United States grew anxious. While the US also achieved its own successes, the initial impression was that it was lagging behind in technology compared to the Soviet Union.

This is why President John F. Kennedy’s call for an American astronaut to land on the Moon resonated so deeply in the United States. It received support from both the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress, as well as from American society at large.

According to Politico, the space race was considered a war for survival, a war that couldn’t be lost.

Russian President Vladimir Putin joined the group of leaders who tried to use space successes to reflect the greatness of their nation.

Putin hoped to enjoy the success of Russia’s Luna-25. However, Russia lost that competition.

Luna-25 suffered damages that led to its crash, preventing it from landing smoothly on the Moon’s surface.

If it had succeeded, Luna-25 would have been cited as “evidence” that Russia remains a great nation, despite its setback in the devastating war in Ukraine.

The Race to the Moon
If these space programs are a reflection of a country’s greatness, then it’s interesting to examine them more closely, and what’s on the rise are the programs in Asia, especially those of China and India.

Both countries have developed advanced cryogenic rocket engines, launch vehicles, and spacecraft.

Both operate several constellations of satellites for communications, Earth imaging, and remote sensing. China even has its own satellite navigation constellation.

China also has a manned spaceflight program with an operational space station, including crewed and cargo spacecraft.

India has plans to send its own astronauts into space in the coming years, while China has announced plans to send its astronauts to the lunar surface in the 2030s.
China’s lunar rover remains active, exploring the far side of the Moon, making it the only country to have landed a rover there so far.

In partnership with the International Space Station (ISS), the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada are also pushing forward in space exploration.

After years of delays and cost overruns, the Artemis I mission was finally launched last year, and NASA has named the crew for Artemis II, including a Canadian astronaut. NASA plans to return humans to the Moon in the coming years, something that hasn’t happened since the last Apollo landing in 1972.

These countries are also continuing to launch satellites and spacecraft. Meanwhile, NASA continues to operate rovers on Mars.

Elon Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX, has been a partner with NASA for years. The company has also delivered supplies and crew to the ISS.

They are also developing a lunar module for NASA, as is the team led by billionaire Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin. Several smaller companies are participating in contracts to provide spacecraft and services for lunar exploration, as there’s a continuous push towards space in various areas.

Russia’s Decline
Russia is an exception. Instead of progressing, its space program has experienced setbacks in recent years.

What was once a prominent program began to unravel after the fall of the Soviet Union, and now its decline seems to be accelerating. Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev was stranded on the Mir space station for almost a year due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the chaos that followed.

One could argue that their program was rescued by the United States, which supported the Mir space station and brought Russia into the ISS program, providing funding for services and contracts to produce core modules and other equipment.

“Make no mistake, Russia has also been a key partner in the ISS program. They have provided crew and cargo transport (including for my Expedition-10 mission), when the space shuttles were retired after the Columbia accident,” Chiao said.

So far, Russian rockets and spacecraft are considered among the safest and most reliable. However, the future of the Russian space program is now uncertain due to ongoing budget cuts, allegations of corruption, politicization, and a lack of young professionals in the field.

In recent years, Russia has experienced failures with Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and rockets, including the cancellation of the Soyuz MS-10 launch in 2018 with American astronaut Nick Hague on board.

Luna-25 is simply the latest mission in a series of failures. Fortunately, none of these failures have resulted in deaths or injuries.

“The abandoned Russian space program reflects the condition of the country itself, including Russia’s poor military performance in its war against Ukraine,” he explained.

Instead of making their country a superpower, it has led to Russia no longer being a “great power.” Putin has demonstrated to the world how serious Russia’s decline has been.