Friday, December 02, 2016

Team Indus and Google LUNAR X Prize ..

Here is the story of a global challenge which is not going to take you places on earth, but deep on lunar surface..

This is about an Indian entry at the prerstigious Google Lunar X prize announced in 2007 but getting materialised only by end 2017 with finally 6 teams.

IIT Delhi would be proud of its alumnus
Rahul Narayan, Team Indus Commander ..
This is the story of Bangalore based startup and Delhi HQ Axiom Research' TEAM INDUS, vying with the other 2 US competitors Moon Express (aboard Rocket Lab's electron rocket) and Synergy Moon (aboard Neptune 8 rocket), Israeli competitor Space IL (aboard SpaceX Falcon 9) and Japanese Hakuto (going aboard Team Indus ECO). The 2 wheeler Japanese lunar rover Tetris (click here for Tetris video)will also go aboard Team Indus ECO.

Of the total 16 teams, five have confirmed launch vehicle contracts and the other 11 including the German competitor PT Scientists are preparing for the contracts to launch the lunar rover for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize.
Team Indus Moon Rover ECA ..

 The first three have already secured contracts on Neptune and Eletron rockets, Space IL with SpaceX to use their Falcon 9 rockets (still not airborne and airworthy after the latest blast at Cape Canaveral, Florida six months back). The Indian team "Team Indus" have secured a contract with ISRO's PSLV-XL, and will also take Japanese Hakuto till lunar surface (Hakuto will piggyback on Team Indus' ECA) to compete for the prestigious Google LUNAR X Prize of $30 million before Dec 31, 2017.

Japanese moon rover Hakuto, hitching a ride
The conditions for Google Lunar X Prize require that the  lunar rover travel minimum 500 metres on lunar surface and be capable of sending high resolution video and images of lunar surface back to earth.

click here for news item from Livemint ..

ISRO is also taking Japanese Hakuto moon rover to space and it will hitch ridee on Team Indus'ECA rover to the moon.

Team Indus is banking on the expertise of ISRO for the space vehicle to take the rover to lunar surface after signing the deal this week, to take the rover to lunar surface aboard PSLV - XL on 28 December 2017.
2 wheeler tetris, second Japanese rover hitching ride on ECA
The challenge is that even ISRO has only reached lunar atmosphere and crash landed Chandrayaan I, but never landed a rover on lunar surface. This is also a great challenge and learning for ISRO as it plans to send a human expedition to moon by 2025 or earlier. China has officially landed a rover after US on lunar surface, but surprisingly we find no teams from China in this global competition.

Rahul Narayan , IIT Delhi (l), Ramnath Babu (structures) and
Sheelika Ravishankar (people), 

For Team Indus (Axiom Research) CEO, Rahul Narayan, this is a great step forward for their company as they have other great plans to break even. This experience and learning is definitely an out of the world one.

Besides catalysing indigenous efforts to conquer outer space, the success of Axiom Research "Team Indus" will also ignite private research efforts in space and be a great motivator for young brilliant Indian minds to think big and plan even privately funded inter planetary missions in the future.

A big thanks to senior retired ISRO scientists who are helping Team Indus to carve a name for itself in space Technology ..

The ECA looking straight into your eyes ..
After SpaceX disaster few months back, it is highly unlikely SpaceX Falcon 9 would be able to get back to space in the next six months or even in the next one year. It is also likely that Team Indus may be the sole competitor for the Google Lunar X prize aboard PSLV. Even though contracts have been signed by SpaceX with the Israeli team, their trip is highly unlikely, even though India would want all competitors to be able to get to lunar surface. ISRO can think of carrying the payloads of the other competitors, since SpaceX is not a reliable operator. The names of Neptune 8 and Electron rocket are virtually unheard of and their reliability is very much in question !

Ratan Tata, Bansal brothers, L&T, Sasken, ISRO have all contributed in no small terms to the success of these youngsters..

Team Indus, advisors and the well wishers. (courtesy Mint)
The great advantage this offers to world science is that private players are also carving a place for themselves in space missions, organisations like SpaceX get to prove their mettle. Starting with lunar surface, then Mars and so on, real estate is spreading like hot fire not confined to earth alone, but other satellites and planets too. This is also a boost to scientific research in outer space.

Pl login to the official website for exciting updates of the different teams ..
This is not just rocket science, it is much more.. Get the managerial lessons ..

At the end of the day, it is not who won the prize and who came second, it is a question of how the Google Lunar X Prize has nurtured an ecosystem that encourages private research into an unknown domain, space and now the moon. This design, research and execution competition will pave the way for more important and great space sojourns by these private companies, and on their success many other startups too, to explore the unknown dimensions of space and beyond ! Good luck teams !!

Good Luck guys !! Do well .. A whole nation of 1.25 billion (the people of Japan too) looks up to you ..  Good wishes..


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