India is now the first nation to successfully achieve a soft landing near the Moon’s southern pole. | Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images
India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission has made space travel history today by successfully achieving a soft landing near the south pole of Earth’s Moon, just days after Russia’s Luna 25 spacecraft crashed while trying to land in the same region. India is now the fourth nation to achieve a soft Moon landing, and the first to have successfully touched down on the lunar south pole — a little-explored area of the Moon that’s believed to contain water ice.
Three other nations — the US, China, and the former Soviet Union — have all previously achieved a soft landing near the Moon’s equator, a safer region with (comparatively) amiable temperatures and terrain, and reliable sunlight to recharge solar-powered instruments.