Indian Startup Team Indus Wins $1M Google Lunar Xprize To Land Robot On Moon


Google Lunar XPRIZE

Team Indus, a space startup from Bangalore has made history as becoming the first and only Indian team to win $1 million as part of Google Lunar Xprize. Team Indus was the only team participating from India, and would soon become one of the first private enterprises to land on moon.

Google Lunar Xprize is an innovation challenge, wherein 26 teams from all over the world are competing to land a robot into the surface of moon, move 500 meters and take high definition images and then sent back the same to Earth.

Overall, the total budget allocated for this grand space exploration is $30 million, which has been divided into three milestones: Landing; Mobility and Imaging.

Team Indus has won the prize money of $1 million for successfully completing the “Landing” milestone, along with 4 other teams under the same category.

As per Xprize’s latest blog, a total 9 milestone prizes were given to 5 teams:

  1. Astrobotic (US): IMAGING ($250,000), MOBILITY ($500,000), LANDING ($1M)
  2. Hakuto (Japan): MOBILITY ($500,000)
  3. Moon Express (US): IMAGING ($250,000), LANDING ($1M)
  4. Part-Time Scientists (Germany): IMAGING ($250,000), MOBILITY ($500,000)
  5. Team Indus (India): LANDING ($1M)

Check out this video to know more about Google’s Lunar XPRIZE and their awards.

Robert K. Weiss, vice chairman and president, XPRIZE, said while announcing the prize winners: “Congratulations to these five talented teams on winning Milestone Prizes. The goal of this unprecedented competition is to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration and these achievements represent a pivotal moment in this important journey back to the moon.”

One of the most crucial rules of this competition is that every participating team should have less than 10% of Government funding. But unlike in India, teams from other countries are heavily supported and funded by private investment companies. For example two of the teams: Moon Express and Astrobotic are part of the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute and Israel-based Space-IL which is backed by several top Israeli institutions.

But despite lack of such strong support system, Team Indus has made it in the top 5 among 26 competing teams, and this is indeed a major accomplishment for a startup from India.

Team Indus is led by Rahul Narayan an IT professional from Delhi. Other team members include: Dilip Chabria, Julius Amrit, Sameer Joshi, Sridhar Ramasubban, Dhruv Batra , Sheelika Ravishankar, Ramnath Babu, Indranil Chakrobarthy.

Last year in December, they successfully raised $35 million from a team of investors which includes Subrata Mitra & Shekhar Kirani of Accel Partners , Sharad Sharma, former Yahoo India R&D head, Vivek Raghavan, chief product manager of UIDAI (the Aadhaar project), Pallaw Sharma, director of analytics at Microsoft , serial entrepreneur Bala Parthasarthy, and part of the AngelPrime angel investor group, Sunil Kalra, entrepreneur & investor, Paras Chopra and Pallav Nadhani.

Ratan Tata backs Xprize in India

In December last year, Ratan Tata decided to support Xprize, and expand their base and operations in India as well. Besides space exploration, Xprize will help projects in the areas on health, sanitation, food and nutrition, waste management and power generation. Along with Ratan Tata, several corporates have also come forward to help Xprize expand their base in India, which includes Coca Cola India, BPG Motors, Inone among others.

Besides Google, several eminent personalities such as Elon Musk, Larry Page, James Cameron, Arianna Huffington, Ali Velshi, Wendy Schmidt, Ray Kurzweil, and Anousheh Ansari are already part of Xprize trustees.

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