Seven teams, including three from India, have qualified for the country’s first private moon mission in December, space technology start-up TeamIndus said on Wednesday.
“Teams Callisto, Ears and Kalpana from India, Space4Life from Italy, Lunadome from Britain, Killa Lab from Peru and Regolith Revolution from the US have qualified to fly their experiments to the lunar surface in our spacecraft,” said a TeamIndus statement.
The state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will fly TeamIndus spacecraft (robot) on its PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) or rocket from its Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, about 80 km northeast of Chennai.
The city-based TeamIndus is competing in the 30-million dollar Google Lunar Xprize, a global contest to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration.
“Space4Life from Naples in Italy will send an experiment to the lunar surface under the Lab2Moon Challenge to test the effectiveness of using a colony of cyanobacteria as a shield against harmful radiation in space,” the statement added.
Cyanobacteria are micro-organisms capable of photosynthesis to produce oxygen using sunlight. They represent the earliest known form of life on earth.
The India-based team, which proposed an experiment to explore photosynthesis on the moon, will fly along with Space4Life to the lunar surface.
“Team Space4Life will work with TeamIndus engineers to make the experiment space worthy for the journey of a lifetime,” said the statement.
An international jury comprising former ISRO Chairman K. Kasturirangan, former European Space Agency Chairman Alain Bensoussan and Yale University’s Astronomy Professor Priyamvada Natarajan examined the prototypes of the experiments in granular detail over the last three days here.
“Congratulations to Space4Life. The data from its experiment have the potential to dramatically impact mankind,” said Kasturirangan in the statement.
Launched in mid-2016, Lab2Moon, a global challenge for youth, inspired about 3,000 teams to send in ideas for experiments.
The Lunar Xprize requires privately funded teams to land their rovers on the surface of the moon, travel 500 metres and broadcast high-definition video, images and data back to earth.
In a launch window starting on December 28, the PSLV will inject the spacecraft into an orbit 880km x 70,000km around the earth. The spacecraft will then undertake a 21-day journey to soft land in Mare Imbrium, a region in the North-Western hemisphere of the Moon.
After landing, the spacecraft will deploy its payload, including the TeamIndus rover that will traverse 500 metres on the moon’s surface to accomplish its objectives.
TeamIndus’ rover has been designed and developed in Bengaluru by a 100-person engineering team, including 20 retired Indian space scientists.