TeamIndus, the only Indian entry in Google's challenge to push private enterprise in space exploration

TeamIndus is building a spacecraft to land on the moon in late 2017 in a bid to win the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize.

Last week, aviation technology venture TeamIndus by Bangalore-based Axiom Research Labs, launched a new competition called Lab2Moon encouraging youngsters to create an experiment to fly on board the TeamIndus spacecraft to the Moon in 2017. Those not in the know, TeamIndus is the only Indian team competing for the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE.

"The processes, interactions and methodology we’re adopting to achieve this feat reflects in the kind of team we’ve managed to build. We’re not in this just to win, but to ensure we’ve pushed ourselves to re-engineer, integrate and constantly aim to do things better and more efficiently. Our mission is designed to be inclusive, democratic and driven by the people. We intend to demystify space for everyone. Which is why we’ve launched a few campaign to engage folks from across the globe, giving them opportunities to join our journey and make it their own," Sheelika Ravishankar, who looks at outreach and marketing, or what they call TeamIndus Jedi master for people capital, tells Tech2.

Explaining how TeamIndus was formed, Ravishankar said that the Google Lunar XPRIZE was announced in 2007 and they have been tracking the competition since 2008, hoping a team from India would register. Talking about what led to the formation of TeamIndus, Ravishankar explains, "We couldn’t let a competition of this magnitude go without an Indian entry, so we registered. We started off as a handful of like minded people coming together and have grown to a 85+ strong team, of which we have about a dozen retired ISRO stalwarts who believe in us and work with us on this mission."

The company was founded in February 2011, and led by Rahul Narayan, an alumnus of IIT Delhi, along with Indranil Chakraborty, Sameer Joshi, Dilip Chabria and Julius Amrit. The team also includes retired ISRO experts including RV Perumal, PS Nair, NS Hegde, NC Bhat, among others. Talking about the team, Ravishankar says, "A recurring theme of many conversation is the fact that none of us had any experience in the aerospace industry. Each of us has successfully built companies, and as seasoned entrepreneurs and professionals, understood that the blueprint for building a company was the same irrespective of industry."

TeamIndus, the only Indian entry in Googles challenge to push private enterprise in space exploration

So, TeamIndus is building a spacecraft to land on the moon in late 2017 in a bid to win the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize. It is a global challenge to catalyse private enterprise in space exploration. Interestingly, it is the only entry from India with the task at hand to land on the moon, move 500 meters, while transmitting high-definition media from the lunar surface to earth. "Landing on the moon, is a feat previously accomplished only by the American, Russian and Chinese governments. TeamIndus, aims to be the next one in that club," Ravishankar adds.

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Working with ISRO, Team Indus will use its PSLV launcher to send the spacecraft to the moon.It is working closley with several international partners for engineering and development. Its partners also include Tata Communications, sasken Technologies, LASP and Indian Institute of Science.

Nandan Nilekani of Infosys was roped in as an investor and adviser last year. However, Ravishankar refused to comment on funding or revenue. Right now, the company is trying to leave no stone unturned as it competes to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon before 31 December, 2017.

Video credit: PSBT India

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