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Moonstruck inventors send desi rover to lunar terrain
SHWETA SHARMA  12th Jan 2013

Team Indus working on the rover

ormer President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam once said, "You have to dream before your dreams can come true". These words seem to have inspired a group with an 'entirely different mindset' – Team Indus – to reach for the moon, quite literally. Part of a global race to reach the moon by 2015, Team Indus is the only Indian entry into the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP).

"It was conceived in response to Google's dare to private enterprises to deliver a moonshot at a fraction of the cost, and time taken by Government missions. As a team that has always questioned the conventional, knowing of the advantages offered by the Indian aerospace ecosystem, an ambitious corporate sector and the aspiration of Indian youth to top that — we had to be part of the largest global competition of all times," says Rahul Narayan, team leader.

Often referred to as Moon 2.0, the GLXP is a space contest organised by the X Prize Foundation, and sponsored by Google. With the intention of encouraging new groups to start thinking about space travel and explorations, the first privately funded team to launch a robot to the moon, travel 500 meters and transmit video, images and data back to the Earth successfully, wins the contest.

"New teams are expected to be formed from small associations, universities, and companies both within and outside of the traditional aerospace sector, bringing fresh ideas and innovation to bear on the challenges. Potential teams are expected to provide detailed technology, business, mission concept plans and strategies as part of 'Intent to Compete'. GLXP thereafter decides to offer registration to suitable teams. Once offered, teams are expected to pay licensing fees US$50,000 to complete the process," explains Dilip Chabria, founding member.

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Teams must be at least 90% privately funded. There are currently 25 teams that are fundraising, mission planning, and building robots for the race, globally. The teams have until the end of 2015 to get to the moon.

A total of $30 million in prizes are available to the first privately funded teams to safely land a robot on the surface and send the data back. Teams must be at least 90% privately funded. There are currently 25 teams that are fundraising, mission planning, and building robots for the race, globally. The teams have until the end of 2015 to get to the moon. The competition does not fund teams for preparations; each team is expected to have its own strategies, systems development and funding.

ECA

"The GLXP is a 'first to demonstrate' competition-meaning that teams can launch their missions at the date and time of their choosing. The first team to successfully complete the Google Lunar X PRIZE mission will be awarded the Grand Prize. If no team is able to do so, the prize will expire at the end of 2015 - till the date there have been no attempts by any of the teams, there have however been announcements for potential launches in 2014 by some of the participating teams," says Narayan.

Explaining the making and functioning of their rover, Chabria says, "The final mission is expected to involve multiple rovers, we are at this point working on the terrestrial version of the main rover named ECA. ECA is designed as a near autonomous, all terrain, exploration vehicle capable of carrying up to 2kgs of scientific payload while sending/receiving data and instructions from earth based command centre."

So, what inspired such a diverse bunch with individuals from the field of technology, science, finance and media to come together for this competition? "In our country it's not difficult to find inspiration. We have had generations of Great Thought Leaders in spirituality, technology, public movement and more — it will be unfair to name just a few. We will quote some of our inspiration sources on our website and welcome you to use the same mantra to go beyond the conventional and strive to do more," says Chabria.

 
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