A prominent Chinese scientist has asserted that India’s Chandrayaan-3, the lunar mission of the country, did not successfully touch down on the Moon’s south pole, challenging New Delhi’s significant achievement in lunar exploration.
The startling claim comes at a time when Indian scientists are trying to revive the Vikram lander and Pragyaan rover from hibernation after the two-week frosty lunar night.
The comments were made on Wednesday by Chinese cosmochemist Ouyang Ziyuan —who was the chief scientist of China’s first lunar mission.
He also claimed that the spacecraft didn’t land either at or near the lunar south pole.
“The landing site of the Chandrayaan-3 was not at the Moon’s south pole, not in the polar region of the Moon’s south pole, nor was it ‘near the Antarctic polar region’,” Ouyang, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told its official Science Times newspaper.
His argument stems from the differing perceptions of what he considers to be the south pole region of the Moon.
Differing perceptions of Moon’s southern pole?
On Earth, the southern pole is defined anywhere between 66.5 and 90 degrees south, since its rotational axis is tilted at around 23.5 degrees relative to the Sun.
Ouyang argues that since the Moon’s tilt was only 1.5 degrees, the polar region was much smaller.
NASA considers Moon’s South Pole to be 80 to 90 degrees, while Ouyang said he considered it to be even smaller at a mere 88.5 to 90 degrees, reflecting the Moon’s 1.5-degree tilt.
Another scientist slams China’s claims
No one has ever questioned or disputed India’s successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the moon’s southern pole. In fact, NASA and the European Space Agency have lauded the ISRO scientists for soft landing near the far side of the moon.
A scientist from Hong Kong University’s Laboratory for Space Research has brushed aside Ouyang’s unfound claims.
“The moment you land a rover close to the south pole and certainly within what’s defined as the south pole region is already a major achievement,” Quentin Parker, director of Hong Kong University’s Laboratory for Space Research, told the South China Morning Post.
“I think that nothing should be taken away from India because of that.”