Bengaluru: TeamIndus, the Indian team that’s competing for the Google Lunar XPrize, on Wednesday announced a competition of its own, Lab2Moon, calling on youngsters to design an experiment to fly on board the TeamIndus spacecraft to the moon in late 2017.
The Google Lunar XPrize, announced in 2007, is a global competition in which 16 privately funded teams from around the world are participating. They are required to place a robot on the moon’s surface that explores at least 500 metres and transmits video and images back to earth.
As part of Lab2Moon, youngsters between 14 and 25 years have to imagine, design and build a project that could help sustain humans on the moon and beyond, ranging from investigating how seeds can grow in space to examining new possibilities in renewable energy.
TeamIndus’ marketing and outreach lead Sheelika Ravishankar said it wanted to “challenge bright young minds. They have to design an experimental payload that weighs no more than 260 grams and which can communicate their findings back to our computers.” Youngsters from across India and the world have been writing to TeamIndus with ideas and aspirations for the moon launch and this had spurred the company to launch Lab2Moon. “Nearly five years ago, a 12-year-old boy in Odisha wrote to us that he wanted to send aboard our spacecraft DNA samples of all the species on earth to the moon. Recently, a group of schoolgirls from Hawaii wrote to us saying they wanted to send a dust shield to the moon,” Ms. Ravishankar said.
Landing at the sea of showers
TeamIndus, which proposes to launch its moon spacecraft on an Isro PSLV rocket, has identified a landing site for it: the Mare Imbrium, or the “Sea of Showers”, a vast lava plain in the Imbrium Basin, where the Soviet Luna 17 and US Apollo 15 landed in the 1970s and the Chinese Chang’e landed in 2013. In Western folklore’s ‘Man in the Moon’ image, Mare Imbrium is the man’s right eye, visible to the naked eye from the earth.
“We have to look for the most benign site to land on. The Sea of Showers looks the most likely now, but it might change, depending on the launch date,” Ms. Ravishankar said. “Our spacecraft will land, a ramp will deploy and a rover will roll out. We will have 14 earth days – or about half a moon day – of exploration activities”.