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Part I: To infinity and beyond

May 26, 2015

Rahul Narayan   

Serial entrepreneur

Just a few months ago, I listened intently as Freeman Dyson, the famous theoretical physicist and mathematician, said that “if you want to have a programme for moving out into the universe, you have to think in centuries, not decades.”

A few months later, Team Indus was born and we dreamed of proving Dyson wrong, delivering best-in-class technology to defy odds. As part of the Google Lunar XPrize, we’ve launched a mission to safely land a spacecraft, able to travel at least 500m, on the surface of the moon, and transmit HD video and images back to Earth – all by December 2016!

It’s an ambitious goal but we all share a passion and enthusiasm to make this a reality. We’re an eclectic group of people who came together – a former Air Force pilot, a management guru, a branding expert who is also a turnaround guru, a serial entrepreneur and an aerospace engineer.

Although we’re a disparate bunch on paper, we are bound by our sheer passion and determination for this project. We’re an unconventional alliance of dreamers and explorers and we will not stop until we reach the moon, and we intend to redefine the parameters of private enterprise while we’re at it.

That being said, the process to date has not been without its challenges. At times the contest has seemed like street fighting! The rules are not clearly defined, skill alone is not enough to win, and the chances of survival are low. However, it’s the fast-paced and extreme environment that has propelled us forward, pushing us to our limits and stretching the boundaries of what we thought was possible.

Some of the best moments for the team so far have included receiving our first independent technology review, securing investment, and partnering with Tata Communications, who will deliver mission critical communications services to take us to the moon and back – from a Content Delivery Network (CDN) solution, to web hosting and flight path big data analytics.

For me personally, one single moment truly stands out as a moment of truth – or I should say a moment of inspiration. When we first came to Bangalore we were able to meet with Dr. Kasturirangan (former Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman and Rajya Sabha member) and surreal as it felt, we were discussing our mission with one of the greatest scientific minds of our country and someone who was responsible for putting India on the space map of the world and he believed in it – believed in us. Having him as a mentor and guide has enhanced our ability to progress faster and validates our self belief.

We want to extend the boundary of innovation and inspire a whole new generation of dreamers – not just in India, but across the world. It’s this that drives us to keep pushing forward. As a team, we’ve steered clear of being dazzled by the “wow factor” and scale of the mission and amazingly, stayed grounded – focusing on solving the problem at hand. The ultimate dream is to lead India into the next generation of space exploration and in my next post I’ll talk about the important role of communications in enabling us to do just this.

In Part II I explore the integral role of connectivity in transmitting HD video and imagery from the moon back to Earth as part of the team’s ambitious Google Lunar XPrize mission.