Japanese rival in moon mission keeps hopes alive for TeamIndus

Bengaluru-based TeamIndus may still have a slim chance of pulling through and launch its moon mission as part of the global Google Lunar XPrize Challenge to try and emerge as the first private entity

Published: 12th January 2018 03:47 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th January 2018 07:16 AM   |  A+A-

Business tycoon Ratan Tata had launched the TeamIndus Foundation’s ‘Moonshot Wheels’ in Bengaluru in February last year

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Bengaluru-based TeamIndus may still have a slim chance of pulling through and launch its moon mission as part of the global Google Lunar XPrize Challenge to try and emerge as the first private entity to touch down on the moon.

One of its four other competitors, who is also TeamIndus’ piggyback rider, Hakuto from Japan, has planned to make a formal plea to competition organisers to further extend the deadline. The deadline was already extended once from December 31, 2017 to March 31, 2018.

Hakuto’s robotic rover was planned to be carried by TeamIndus’ spacecraft, ECA (Ek Choti Asha), alongside the latter’s own robotic rover. The mission was to be launched on board the ISRO’s  workhorse launcher, the PSLV, latest by the first week of March to be able to beat the March 31 deadline of completing the mission. But TeamIndus’ funds crunch saw the contract with ISRO falling through, leaving it as well as Hakuto without a launcher to carry out their missions.

Team Hakuto on Thursday announced that they will appeal to the organisers, Google Lunar XPrize, for a deadline extension. If the organisers agree, TeamIndus -- and Hakuto -- could get another chance to either renegotiate with ISRO for the launch or find another space agency to launch theirs and Hakuto’s missions.

However, a second deadline extension for a competition, which has a total prize money of $30 million, is unlikely, especially with three other competitors involved - Israeli team SpaceIL, the American team Moon Express, and an international team Synergy Moon - who may oppose the deadline extension, sources said.
However, while TeamIndus has remained mum with an official “no comments” reaction on the issue following confirmation from ISRO about the deal being put off, Hakuto has gone ahead and declared that it will not back out despite this reversal.

In a press release issued on Thursday, titled “Hakuto will continue to challenge”, it said: “Hakuto currently does not intend to withdraw from Google Lunar XPrize. Hakuto is empathizing with the concept of creating a new space industry ahead of the race, and has been participating in the race since 2010. Empathy with Hakuto’s challenge (sic), we will continue to challenge the Google Lunar X (sic) and the private moon exploration to prevent uselessness of everyone who is supporting us.”

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