Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Mohd Izmir Yamin : Malaysian eyes Google Lunar XPrize

PETALING JAYA: A group of Malaysians are aiming to make a breakthrough in space exploration in the region after becoming the only South-East Asian team to participate in the Google Lunar XPrize competition. 
Independence-X, comprising a team of 14 local aerospace engineers, are among 15 finalists participating in the global competition that is open to private-sector players. 

The competition requires participants to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon, have it travel 500m and transmit high-definition (HD) video and images back to Earth. 

And they will need to do all of that by the end of 2017.   

“Our aim is innovation. It’s impossible to have a vision of the future without development in space technology,” team leader Mohd Izmir Yamin (pic) told CNBC in a recent interview. 

The team has already launched their robotic spacecraft, named "Henry", which they hope will take the country closer to achieving history in the area of space exploration.   

CNBC, which was recently given exclusive access to images of "Henry", reported that the 1.4m tall and 2m-wide spacecraft weighed about 850kg. It comes with an HD imaging camera and a water sensor. 

However, "Henry" is not ready to take off just yet as the bigger challenge now looms for Independence-X. 

They now need to secure a contract to launch the spacecraft into orbit before the end of this year, a feat that only four teams in the competition have achieved so far. 

A tricky requirement is that government funding can only account for 10% of a team’s total mission cost, as the Google Lunar XPrize competition is focused on promoting entrepreneurship and low-cost space economy. 

Izmir told CNBC that much of his team’s costs thus far have been funded by private corporations, crowd-funding campaigns, and reward-based contributions. 

The first team that completes the mission will receive an astronomical cash prize of US$20mil (RM88.4mil), while second-place winners will get US$5mil (RM22.1mil). 

The four teams that have already secured verified launch contracts are SpaceIL from Israel, Moon Express (United States), Synergy Moon (international), and India’s Team Indus. 

Izmir said his team has a launch provider in the pipeline and is currently finalising the process, adding that an official announcement could be expected in January. 

“I feel both worried and confident at the same time as this is the first attempt of its kind in South-East Asia. 

“We admit that SpaceIL is one of the toughest competitors but we’re going to do our best to make the mission cost-effective and reliable,” he added. 

Independence-X, which operates out of Technology Park in Bukit Jalil, is the only private space company in Malaysia and one of merely a handful in South-East Asia.

*Taken from The Star Online

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