President Solih with Indian Prime Minister Modi in India. (File Photo/President's Office)

Maldives pres congratulates India on historic moon landing

India has become the first nation to land a craft near the moon's south pole.

23 August 2023

Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has congratulated India as the South Asian neighbour on Wednesday became the first nation to land a craft near the moon's south pole, a historic triumph for the world's most populous nation and its ambitious, cut-price space programme.

The unmanned Chandrayaan-3, which means "Mooncraft" in Sanskrit, touched down at 6:04 pm India time (1234 GMT) as mission control technicians cheered wildly and embraced their colleagues.

Its landing comes days after a Russian probe crashed in the same region and four years since the previous Indian attempt failed at the last moment.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), President Solih congratulated Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, officials and scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the people of India for the successful landing.

"As a fellow South Asian nation, we are proud of this historic feat - an achievement that will advance the cause of scientific and human progress," the post read.

India is closing in on milestones set by global space powers such as the United States and Russia, conducting many of its missions at much lower price tags.

The South Asian nation has a comparatively low-budget space programme, but one that has grown considerably in size and momentum since it first sent a probe to orbit the Moon in 2008.

The latest mission has a cost of $74.6 million -- far lower than those of other countries, and a testament to India's frugal space engineering.

Experts say India can keep costs low by copying and adapting existing technology, and thanks to an abundance of highly skilled engineers who earn a fraction of their foreign counterparts' wages.

In 2014, India became the first Asian nation to put a craft into orbit around Mars and is slated to launch a three-day crewed mission into Earth's orbit by next year.

Wednesday's landing had been eagerly awaited by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) after the frustrating failure of its previous mission at the last hurdle in 2019.