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TeamIndus, the Bengaluru startup that is among the five finalists for the Google Lunar X Prize to send a lander to Moon, will take its message to children across India to inspire them to take up science as a career.
The company has put together 16 science experiments that a bus, named ‘Moonshot wheels,’ will take to government schools in 11 states over the next 12 months, covering some 125,000 kilometres, according to a press release on Tuesday.
Commercial interest is rising in space faring for everything from energy to tourism, as large corporations and governments of major economies around the world seek to take humankind beyond planet earth. Competition to capitalise on early successes is prompting businesses and government alike to invest in ways to expand the ecosystem of research and development beyond well-known organisations such as NASA or ISRO.
Google’s Lunar X Prize has pledged as much as $40 million to the winners, including milestone prizes for demonstrating that the contenders’ technologies work for landing, mobility, imaging and so on on the Moon’s surface, in tests that simulate similar conditions on earth. TeamIndus has won $1 million in milestone money under the landing category.
TeamIndus became the fourth finalist for the Lunar X Prize after clinching a contract with ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) to place its rover on the Moon, using a polar satellite launch vehicle. The launch is scheduled for December 28 this year.
The four other contenders are SpaceIL of Israel, Moon Express from America, Synergy Moon, an international effort, and Hokuto from Japan. The mission involves landing a robot on Moon so that it can then explore at least 500 metres of the Moon’s surface and transmit high quality video and imagery back to earth.
Leading up to its launch, TeamIndus is taking its bus, Moonshot Wheels, from state to state to get children excited about science. The effort is led by TeamIndus Foundation, via campaign #HarIndianKaMoonshot. The foundation works to promote experiential learning and recognise achievers in science education.
The aim is to attempt “to ignite passion for STEM in the next generation,” Rahul Narayan, fleet commander of TeamIndus, said in the press release. STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and math. TeamIndus has partnered Agastya International Foundation, which works in the area of STEM education to run Moonshot Wheels.