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India Just Became the First Country to Land on the Moon's South Pole

CNN - India has landed its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the moon, becoming only the fourth nation ever to accomplish such a feat.

The mission could cement India’s status as a global superpower in space. Previously, only the United States, China and the former Soviet Union have completed soft landings on the lunar surface. 

Chandrayaan-3’s landing site is also closer to the moon’s south pole than any other spacecraft in history has ventured. The south pole region is considered an area of key scientific and strategic interest for spacefaring nations, as scientists believe the region to be home to water ice deposits.  

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ... shared broadcasted remarks on the livestream.  

 “On this joyous occasion…I would like to address all the people of the world,” he said. “India’s successful moon mission is not just India’s alone. This is a year in which the world is witnessing India’s G20 presidency. Our approach of one Earth, one family, one future is resonating across the globe."

On an occasion such as this, in the spirit of Hands Across the Water and Prime Minister Modi's idealistic view that this is a victory for all the world, I won't mention that the animation of Chandrayaan-3's landing looks like something out of The Thunderbirds from 1965:

Giphy Images.

And it would be in really bad form to mention that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin hauled ass all over that godforsaken rock 54 years ago with less computing power on their craft than you'll find in your FitBit. And we quickly got tired of the place and quit going. 

No, the only proper response to this is to say what John Glenn said in The Right Stuff when the Soviets made it into space first. That we need to be gracious, forthright and magnanimous about this.

The genuine truth of this is that it is a great accomplishment for India, but as their PM says, for the entire human race. First of all, because the more of us we have exploring space, the faster we'll get it explored and begin making the great journey our species is destined for. 

Also though, this is a great underdog story. A recent edition to the community of spacefaring nations pulling off something the previous three haven't. More than that, it's a comeback story for the ages. Because it wasn't that long ago that the Indian space program's hopes of making a soft landing on the moon were quite literally dashed:


And not to be overlooked in all this is how the most populous nation on the globe turns up for these moments. If Indians were a college football fanbase, we'd all admire them for the way they travel. And take over visiting stadiums:

And drive TV ratings:

That's the way it always looks in news footage from Apollo 11. Americans gathering by the millions to breathlessly follow every tense moment until the splashdown. Everyone involved, from the astronauts themselves to the engineers and project managers were hailed as heroes. Now I have no idea what NASA actually does. We can't get into low Earth orbit without Elon Musk and half the country hates him for being an eccentric kook. Watching India celebrate something we used to be great at feels like watching Larry Brown's 2004 Olympic team lose to Puerto Rico, Lithuania and Argentina. Sure, I'd rather see my own country win. But you have to admire the other guys who simply wanted it more, worked hard, and got it done.

Now all I ask is that when they do the movie version of The Chandrayaan-3 Story, they let everyone who worked on RRR handle it. Best film of the last five years, hands down: