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#ASmallHope: Indian team in the running for private-sector moon exploration project

A team of Indian scientists could become the first to send a private spacecraft to the moon after bagging a million-dollar interim prize from search giant Google.

Bangalore-based Axiom Research Labs, whose team includes some young techies as well as veterans of the Indian Space Research Organization, won the prize after submitting their design for a lunar rover.

Now the team - which calls itself Team Indus - is the only Indian outfit in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, which features 17 other teams racing to build a complete exploration vehicle that can land on the moon by the end of 2016 and win $30 million for their troubles.

The team's machine is appropriately named 'Ek Choti Si Asha' ("One Small Hope") and was judged to have the competition's sturdiest landing gear, a crucial element in successfully getting a machine of this kind on the surface of the moon. 

“We can be the first, that’s why we are in this race,” said Dilip Chabria, one of the seven founders of the company.

Whilst the landing gear is important, the team's machine needs to safely land on the lunar surface and release a robot to explore at least 500 meters from the landing site in order to win the final prize.

Team Indus estimates that it will ultimately require a total of $45 million to get their spacecraft ready. 

Axiom has reportedly raised some of the money from investors but refuses to say how much.

The Google Lunar XPrize prize was created to spur private-sector innovation and investment needed for the world’s first privately-funded exploration of the moon.

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