Published: Aug. 23, 2023 By

 ESA/SMART-1/AMIE camera team; image mosaic: M. Ellouzi/B. Foing)From CU Boulder Today: Early in the morning Mountain Time today, an Indian lander named Vikram became the first spacecraft to touch down on the surface of the moon near its South Pole. The lander, which carried a six-wheeled rover and is part of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, was a monumental achievement for the Indian Space Research Organisation: India is now just the fourth country to land successfully on the moon.

Just days before, a second lander from Russia didn’t fare so well. The Luna-25 spacecraft smashed into the surface of the moon and “ceased to exist,” according to a Russian statement—highlighting the fact that getting to the moon is still really hard.

Jack Burns, professor emeritus of astrophysical and planetary sciences at CU Boulder, followed the news of both landers closely. He’s a co-investigator on a NASA instrument called Radio wave Observation at the Lunar Surface of the photoElectron Sheath (ROLSES). ROLSES is scheduled to also land on the moon’s South Pole later this year aboard a lander dubbed Intuitive Machines-1—part of NASA’s ambitious Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.

Burns weighed in on the increasingly international rush to return to the lunar surface, and why, when it comes to the moon, it’s important to learn from failures sooner rather than later. Read more...