The fact that so many nations - the United States, Russia, China, India, Israel - and even commercial entities are interested in landing on the moon means that there are many opportunities to create new partnerships
By: Mariel Borowitz, Associate Professor of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology
India made history as the first country to land the Chandrayaan-3 lander near the moon's south pole on August 23, 2023. The last country to send a lander to the moon was China in 2020. Earlier, the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft and Chandrayaan-2 failed in their landing attempts.
India is one of several countries - including the US with its 'Artemis' program - striving to land on the moon. The South Pole of the Moon is of particular interest, as its surface, which is marked by craters, trenches and pockets of ancient ice, has not yet been visited.
The Conversation US asked international affairs expert Mariel Borowitz about the implications of this moon landing, both for science and the global community
Why are countries like India investing efforts to reach the moon?
Nations want to go to the moon because it can excite people, test the limits of human technical capabilities, and allow us to discover more about our solar system.
The moon has a historical and cultural significance that can really impress people - anyone in the world can look up into the sky at night, see the moon and realize how amazing it is to have a spacecraft built by humans orbiting its surface.
The Moon also represents a unique opportunity to indulge in both international cooperation and competition in a peaceful, yet highly visible way.
The fact that so many nations - the United States, Russia, China, India, Israel - and even commercial entities are interested in landing on the moon means that there are many opportunities to create new partnerships.
These partnerships can enable nations to do more in space by pooling resources, and they encourage collaboration here on Earth by connecting researchers and private organizations.
There are also some people who believe that lunar exploration can provide economic benefits. In the near term, this may include the emergence of startups working on space technology and contributing to these missions. India has experienced a wave of space startups recently.
Ultimately, the moon may provide economic benefits based on the natural resources that can be found there, such as water, helium-3 and rare elements.
Are we seeing a new global interest in space?
In recent decades, we have seen a significant increase in the number of nations involved in space activities. This is very clear when it comes to satellites that collect images or information about the Earth, for example. More than 60 nations have been involved in these types of satellite missions. Now we see that this trend is expanding to space exploration, and especially to the moon.
In some ways, interest in the moon is driven by similar goals as in the first space race in the 60s - demonstrating technological capabilities and inspiring young people and the general public. However, this time it's not just two superpowers competing in the race. Now we have many participants, and while there is still a competitive element, there is also an opportunity for cooperation and the creation of new international space exploration partnerships.
There is still potential to commit to more sustainable exploration with all these new players and the technical improvements of the last 60 years. This could include building lunar bases, developing ways to use lunar resources and eventually devoting yourself to economic activities on the moon based on natural resources or tourism.
How does India's mission compare to other countries' moon missions?
India's achievement is the first of its kind and very exciting, but it is worth noting that it is one of seven missions currently operating on and around the moon.
In addition to India's Chandrayaan-3 lander near the South Pole, there is also South Korea's Pathfinder lunar rover, which is exploring the lunar surface to identify future landing sites; the NASA-funded CAPSTONE spacecraft, developed by the Space Startup Company; and the lunar rover for NASA reconnaissance and data collection. The CAPSTONE spacecraft investigates the stability of a unique orbit around the moon, and the lunar rover collects information about the moon and maps sites for future missions.
Also, while India's Chandrayaan-2 rover crashed, its companion satellite is still operational. China's Chang'e-4 and Chang'e-5 landers are still operating on the moon as well.
Other nations and commercial entities are working to join. Russia's Luna-25 rover crashed into the moon three days before Chandrayaan-3 landed, but the fact that Russia developed the rover and got so close is still a significant achievement.
The same can be said about the lunar lander built by the private Japanese company ispace. The lander crashed into the moon in April 2023.
The South Pole of the Moon is the area that nations are focusing on for future exploration. All 13 of NASA's candidate landing sites for the Artemis program are located near the South Pole.
This region offers the greatest potential to find water ice, which can be used to support astronauts and produce rocket fuel. It also has peaks that are in constant or nearly constant sunlight, creating excellent opportunities to generate energy to support lunar activities.
More of the topic in Hayadan: