NASA’s efforts to get astronauts to land on the moon by 2024 will now have a key contribution from India. Bengaluru-based private firm Team Indus is part of a consortium that has bagged a contract from the US space agency to design and build a lander for its next lunar mission in 2020. In a statement earlier this week, NASA said it has selected three such consortia — commercial moon-landing service providers — to deliver science and technology payloads under Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) as part of the Artemis lunar exploration programme. Among the three players is US-based Orbit Beyond, a consortium of nine firms, including Team Indus. Team Indus is the only company with lander-making credentials. Orbit Beyond, a private firm, is leading the consortium. The other seven firms in the consortium specialise in other aspects of aerospace and space technology. Confirming the development, Team Indus engineer Mr Ananth Ramesh told . “Yes, we will be building the lander. It is most likely to be built in India too.” Team Indus CEO Mr Rahul Narayan was in the US to sign the contract documents. The consortium, which has proposed to fly four payloads to Mare Imbrium, a lava plain in one of the Moon’s craters by September 2020, has been awarded $97 million. “Our selection of these US commercial landing service providers represents America’s return to the Moon’s surface for the first time in decades, and it’s a huge step forward for our Artemis lunar exploration plans,” NASA administrator Mr Jim Bridenstine said in the statement. Of the three consortia, Orbit Beyond, and therefore Team Indus, have the shortest deadline with barely 15 months to go. Each commercial lander will carry NASA-provided payloads that will conduct investigations and demonstrate advanced technologies on the lunar surface, paving the way for NASA astronauts to land on the lunar surface. NASA said the learning from these missions will not only “change our view of the universe, but also prepare our human missions to the Moon and eventually Mars”.
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