India suddenly has one of the world's most ambitious space programs.
After successfully landing a spacecraft and rover on the Moon, India plans to make history again by sending up its own lunar astronauts.
In a press release, the Indian government announced that its prime minister Narendra Modi wants the country's space agency to send its first citizen to the Moon by 2040 — an ambitious timeline, given the country's shoestring space budget.
Back in August, India became the fourth country ever to land on the Moon following the United States, the Soviet Union, and China.
Incredibly, it only spent about $74 million doing so, which was less than the budgets of space films like "Gravity" and "Interstellar." It was the country's second attempt at a lunar landing after its Chandrayaan-2 probe lost contact with Indian mission control and was declared dead a few months later.
The Moon isn't the only nearby heavenly body India's set its sights on, though its other recently-launched mission received significantly less fanfare than Chandrayaan-3.
At the beginning of September, the Indian Space Research Organization launched its Aditya-L1 solar observatory mission, which is on course to reach its vantage point over the Sun's gravitationally stable Lagrange Point 1, about a million miles from Earth, in the next few months.
Also upcoming on India's busy space schedule is a joint lunar mission with Japan in 2025 to search for water on the Moon, a space station Modi wants built by 2035, and proposed missions to both Venus and Mars. The latter will build on India's successful launch of its Mangalyaan satellite in 2014, the country's groundbreaking Mars mission that was the first in world history to reach the Red Planet's orbit on its first try.
It's clear that India has entered the realm of spacefaring nations with its recent and planned missions — and compared to Russia, whose own Moon lander crashed just days before Chandrayaan-3 landed on the lunar surface, it's looking better than ever.
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