NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Excitement rose in India on Tuesday on the eve of a much-anticipated moon landing, with prayers held for its success, schools marshalling students to watch a live telecast of the event and space enthusiasts organising parties to celebrate.
The Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft is scheduled to land on the lunar south pole at 1234 GMT on Wednesday, days after the failure of a Russian vehicle trying to achieve the same feat.
Success for Chandrayaan-3 will make it the first to land on the lunar south pole, a region whose shadowed craters are thought to contain water ice that could support a future moon settlement.
India's second attempt to land on the moon after a failure in 2019 is being seen as a display of the tenacity of its scientific institutions.
Authorities and educators also hope it will encourage scientific inquiry among millions of students in the world's most populous country.
Students have sent scores of messages wishing ISRO luck for a successful landing, the agency said.
In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the provincial government ordered all schools to hold special screenings as "landing of India's Chandrayaan-3 is a memorable opportunity, which will not only encourage curiosity, but will also instil passion in our youth towards inquiry".
In Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the science and technology council has invited over 2,000 school students "to witness the historic moment" on a large screen, its head Narottam Sahoo said.
The council has also organised talks by ISRO scientists. The event will be shown live across Gujarat's 33 district community science centres.
The state culture ministry in the eastern city of Kolkata is throwing a "Science Party" to celebrate the mission, asking people to "embark on exhilarating educational adventure" with a live telecast.
Hindu religious prayer ceremonies were organised on Tuesday in Mumbai and Varanasi cities for the success of the mission.
Srikant Chunduri, an entrepreneur and founder of a group of space enthusiasts called "Agnirva", said he has arranged a "watch party" for the landing at a popular Bengaluru restaurant.
"If we want to build a community for space enthusiasts, (there is) nothing more momentous than this landing to get people together," he told Reuters.
ISRO has been sharing regular updates of the mission through posts on X, formerly Twitter.
"The mission is on schedule. Systems are undergoing regular checks. Smooth sailing is continuing," it said on Tuesday.
"The Mission Operations Complex (MOX) is buzzed with energy & excitement!"
(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru, Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow, Subrata Nag Choudhury in Kolkata, Sumit Khanna in Ahmedabad, Sunil Kataria in New Delhi; Writing by Krishn Kaushik; Editing by YP Rajesh and Raju Gopalakrishnan)