BENGALURU: Eight teams have been left orphaned with Bengaluru-based TeamIndus unable to pursue its dream to be a part of Google Lunar XPrize Challenge. It was hoping to be the first private company in the world to touch down on moon.
TeamIndus had an agreement with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to launch their mission by March first week for TeamIndus to complete its challenge before the March 31 deadline. The challenge involved landing on moon and sending a robotic rover to a minimum 500m to relay high-definition images back to earth.
However, lack of funds saw TeamIndus’ contract with ISRO to launch the mission on board a PSLV rocket, fall through. That has left TeamIndus without a launcher to reach moon. Now, TeamIndus cannot go to the moon without a launcher, while the eight youth teams cannot go without TeamIndus to moon with their respective experiments.
The eight youth teams - foreign and Indian - had entered TeamIndus-floated Lab2Moon Challenge, thrown open to global entrants. The Lab2Moon challenge was launched by TeamIndus after it had qualified for the Google Lunar XPrize Challenge to include as many additional experiments as possible by roping in young scientists globally.
TeamIndus was in the final five shortlisted global teams (and the only Indian team) to compete in the Google Lunar XPrize Challenge.
Five teams - including TeamIndus - had made it to the final list, and the first one to send back the images after meeting the required conditions was to bag a $20 million prize. The runner-up was to bag $5 million, with another $5 million earmarked for the most unique experiment carried out during the mission. It was for the last category that the Lab2Moon Challenge winners were short-listed to be on TeamIndus’ mission.
The Lab2Moon Challenge saw Italian team Space4Life winning the first slot to go on board TeamIndus’ ECA (Ek Choti Asha) spacecraft.
Space4Life’s experiment was to test the effectiveness of an innovative radiation shield, called BIOS (cyanobacterial radiation shield), composed of a colony of Cyanobacteria and to see whether and how these are able to resist extremely harsh radiation in space and in lunar environment. Cyanobacteria, classified as bacteria, are photosynthetic (using sunlight to synthesise nutrients from carbon dioxide and water) and have played a decisive role in increasing free oxygen levels in the earth’s atmosphere.
The runner-up team was a Bengaluru-based one, named ZΩI (Zee Omega I), which proposed an experiment to explore the process of photosynthesis on moon.
The other six teams included Team Callisto (India) with its lunar dust accumulation analyser; TeamEARS (India) with electrostatics active radiation shield experiment; Team Kalpana (India) with an instrument for lunar dust analysis; Team Killa Lab (Peru) with an experiment testing microbial growth and decomposition; Team Lunadome (UK) with an inflatable dome experiment, and Team Regolith Revolution (USA) which was looking at the effect on plant growth in Moon’s surface layers.
In early March 2017, an international jury examined these experiments that came in from all over the world. Dr Kasturirangan, former ISRO chairman and jury member, had said the data results from these experiment had the potential to dramatically impact mankind. But these teams have nowhere to go now.