Team Indus is the latest competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize to get a launch contract in the worldwide competition for the first private expedition to the moon, according to the Business Standard. The #India-based team has signed a deal with Antix Corp, the commercial arm of the India #Space Research Organization, for a launch on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) for late in 2017. The X Prize has to certify the launch contract for Team Indus to be officially in the final leg of the modern race to the moon.
Moon Express, SpaceIL, and Synergy Moon have launch contracts that have been certified. Astrobotics is feverishly trying to conclude a launch arrangement with SpaceX on behalf of itself and Team Hakuto of Japan and Team AngelicvM of Chile before the deadline of the end of 2016. The competitors have until the end of 2017 to land on the moon and perform certain tasks, such as return video and images from the lunar surface and to move 500 meters from the original landing site, to win the Google Lunar X Prize,
The news that the team from India will be moving into the final stretch of the private race to the moon has come on the heels of the news that NASA is interested in partnering with commercial companies to restart the exploration of the moon. The space agency has asked for information on possible payloads that could be included on private lunar missions. Moon Express has decided to match that challenge by pledging $1.5 million for three instruments that could fly on its lunar voyages.
Space analysts and some reports in the media suggest that whoever is elected president, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, NASA will refocus on a return to the moon as part of its wider space exploration plan. President Barack Obama, in a widely criticized move, announced over six years ago that NASA would bypass the lunar surface in its Journey to Mars program. The decision was slammed by Congress and independent space experts as politically motivated and short sighted. NASA seems already to be making the tentative moves that could result in a public/private return to the moon in support of the Journey to Mars.