Bengaluru-based aerospace start-up TeamIndus is scouting for funds and sponsors to build a spacecraft with a rover for landing and exploring the lunar surface.
"The total budget of the moon mission is about Rs 450 crore, out of which we have raised more than half (Rs 225 crore) and have spent. We're trying to accumulate the rest through sponsors and others interested in this mission," TeamIndus Fleet Commander Rahul Narayan told reporters here on Thursday.
The firm aims to launch its spacecraft in three to six months in an attempt to win the "Google Lunar XPRIZE", a competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration.
The state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will fly 600 kg TeamIndus spacecraft (robot) on its PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) from its Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, about 80 km northeast of Chennai.
TeamIndus is the only Indian team among the five finalists competing for the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE.
This will be the first time ISRO has given a dedicated PSLV to any private entity. The deadline for the completion of the lunar mission set by Google Lunar XPRIZE is 31 March, 2018.
The firm already has the backing of software giant Infosys' non-Executive Chairman Nandan Nilekani and Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata among others and is mulling crowdfunding (raising money from a large number of individuals putting in small amounts) to fund the mission.
"We are in talks with several people who have expressed their interest in the project and are hopeful of completing the mission," Narayan said.
As the Google Lunar XPRIZE judging panel were in the city on a five-day review of TeamIndus' moon mission plan, the chairman of the panel, Professor Alan Wells, said the team was in the "right trajectory to make history".
"We took a detailed look at the mission plan and the methodologies being employed to gauge the progress of the lunar mission. We have come away from this rigorous exercise impressed by the readiness of TeamIndus. They are clearly on the right trajectory to make history," Wells said.
To win the prize, privately-funded teams must land their spacecraft on the surface of the Moon, travel 500 metres, and broadcast high definition video and data back to Earth.
TeamIndus had signed a contract last year to carry a 4 kg rover developed by Hakuto, the Japanese team that had also qualified for the finals of the competition.
The Indian firm is competing against SpaceIL (Israel), Moon Express (US), Synergy Moon (international) and Hakuto (Japan) in the competition.
The Bengaluru-based firm has over 100 engineers and 20 former ISRO scientists working on the spacecraft's design and technology.