Yesterday, January 24, Antrix Corporation (the commercial arm of ISRO) announced that it mutually terminated the space mission launch agreement with Indian startup TeamIndus. The contract was a part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE contest, and the mission would have been the country’s first-ever private voyage to the moon.
The Bengaluru-based TeamIndus signed the contract with Antrix in December 2016, which entailed the $30 million prize pursuit of Google’s contest. For success, it required soft-landing on the moon and sending images back to earth by March 31 of this year.
Neither TeamIndus nor Antrix gave reasons for the termination. According to media reports, TeamIndus could not raise enough funds as per the contract. Although an official release of Antrix did not specify any reason at all, but formally wished TeamIndus success for its future. TeamIndus, on the other hand, is yet to give an official statement.
Now, neither Indian Space Research Organization nor TeamIndus ever gave anything officially, but there were reports scattering in the air for the last 6 months that the contract is hanging at the edge of cancellation. Last July, Rahul Narayan, the startup leader, said they are hopeful in battling the situation.
TeamIndus is notably supported by entrepreneur Ratan Tata, and technocrats K Kasturirangan (former ISRO chairman), and Nandan Nilekani of Infosys. The termination cancelled the startup’s participation in Google’s contest, where they were the only Indian team out of the final five competitors.
The Google Lunar XPRIZE will offer $20 million to the winners for accomplishing the first private ISRO moon mission, which requires landing on its surface and travelling for a distance of 500 meters.