Yes, you heard that correct! Rahul Naraynan, Co founder and Tech Lead for a startup called Team Indus is in the process of building a first ever private spacecraft that lands on the moon. Rahul and his team started Team Indus back in 2010 and it’s the only Indian team to win a milestone fund of $1 million (Rs. 6.15 Crore) from Google Lunar Xprize (GLXP). GLXP supports many privately funded space flight teams to launch a robotic lunar lander-rover by December 2017.
Rahul is an IIT-Delhi alumnus and has a history of being involved in multiple tech ventures. To get selected for the GLXP Competition Rahul spoke to some of his friends and four of them agreed to join and help him Sameer Joshi, a former Indian Air Force fighter pilot, Julius Amrit, an investment banker, Dilip Chabria, an advertising professional, and Indranil Chakrobarthy, an aerospace engineer.
It’s not been a smooth ride for Rahul and his team, almost all of the time the first reaction of whoever they met was that they were attempting the impossible. They knew this would not be easy and they were ready to take the big knockout punches and still get back up again. To add to this and accomplish their target before the due date set by GLXP, Team Indus required a sturdy and hard working team and that was precisely their biggest challenge. Rahul in one of his interviews said, “Convincing people to work with us was a huge challenge. Motivating them during the times when the chips were down was ultra-difficult.”
He admits that it was only because of the constant support from his mentors that kept them going. They were surprised how quickly major firms like L&T agreed to help them in their mission.Out of all the mentors, K Kasturirangan, (former Planning Commission member and ISRO chairman) has been the single most positive reason that kept them pushing their limits.
Rahul always had the dream of doing something that could change the world for the betterment of mankind. When the moon mission came to him, he immediately felt like this is what he was meant to do. When asked him about the competition and if he was confident to win the Google Lunar Xprize, Rahul said, “We will definitely land on the moon. It will be icing on the cake to be the first one to do it.”
Till date, Team Indus has a raised total funding of around Rs. 213 Crore from a host of investors. They also recently roped in Infosys co-founder and former UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani as an investor and advisor.
Just like N Vedachalam, a retired senior official of ISRO said that even if Team Indus is not able to launch before the deadline set by GLXP “India will still salute you!” We wish Rahul and Team Indus all the best and we hope they launch the spacecraft before the deadline.