ISRO -- Moon surface - Chandrayaan-3
The lunar surface as seen by the camera on board the Chandrayaan-3 on Aug. 6, 2023. Indian Space Research Organization

India landed its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft near the moon's south pole, an area seen as critical for any sustained lunar operations because of possible water ice deposits there, becoming only the fourth nation to do so.

The spacecraft touched down on the dark side of the moon around 8:34 a.m. ET Wednesday, and the lander radioed back to Earth: "India, I reached my destination and you too!"

The Indian Space Research Organization, ISRO, tweeted out that message as the country erupted in celebrations.

The Vikram lander carries a rover, Pragyan, which is expected to roll out once the dust from the landing clears. Once it is operational, the solar-powered rover will send images and data from the surface of the moon for 14 days, the equivalent of a lunar day.

On Tuesday, ISRO released images of the moon captured by the lander as it approached for touchdown.

The Indian mission was launched last month. Russia's Luna 25, launched after the Indian mission and taking a faster trajectory to the moon, crashed onto the lunar surface Saturday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi watched the landing online from South Africa, where he is attending a summit of BRICS leaders. "This moment is precious and unprecedented. This moment announces the victory of new India. This moment is the strength of 1.4 billion heartbeats," he told the nation.

Previously, only the United States, the erstwhile Soviet Union and China have achieved landings on the moon.

An earlier Indian moon mission, the Chandrayaan-2, was only a partial success as its lander suffered a software glitch and crashed into the moon.