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For $30 Million Prize, Bengaluru Start-Up Is Busy With Its Moon Mission

For $30 Million Prize, Bengaluru Start-Up Is Busy With Its Moon Mission

BENGALURU:  In a large warehouse-like office just outside Bengaluru, it’s a busy day at work for people at this start-up. By the end of this year, Team Indus – a cluster of young scientists, techies and retired experts from ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), must land their spacecraft on the moon. That’s if they hope to win 30 million dollars. They do – and not without reason. In 2015, Team Indus won a million dollars for the landing technology that will be used by its robot on the moon.  But to get the big 30 million prize offered by Google, their rover has to travel 500 metres on the moon and send back high-definition images and videos to the mission control room, located in their office in Jakkur outside the city. Team Indus has more than 100 members. Its moon-destined rover is now in its fifth iteration. It will be delivered to the moon with a PSLV rocket, for which it will pay commercial fees to Antrix, ISRO’s commercial wing. There are many “Ninjas” assigned to perfecting the rover. Designations, unlike the goal of the team, are flights of fancy.  Karan Vaish, for example, is “Skywalker” – geek speak for Rover Systems Engineer. “This is the latest version called ECA, or Ek Chottisi Asha. There are four wheels, independently powered. It weighs 10 kg and will be the lightest little rover ever on the moon. It will be launched on December 28th – and by Republic Day 2018 it will be saying hello to us from there,” he said. Paul Edward, among the afore-said Ninjas explained how the robot here is different from those developed by three other teams that are still in the race, none of them from India. “The earlier moon rovers by the three other countries were huge, the size of a golf cart. The wheel mechanism here is designed for a smaller structure, interacting with the soft soil.”  The heat the rover will have to withstand is a major challenge. “The ground temperature goes to 103 degrees Celsius. There is more heat reflected from the ground which hits the rover from the bottom. Also heat is generated from components, so it is essentially a hot box. So we had a thermal management system where we pulled out heat from the components,” said Skywalker Karan.

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