Telugu techies make it to top 13 in NASA contest
A three-member team of Telugu techies did the nation proud by emerging as the only team from the country to make it to the top 13, competing with 374 teams from 48 nations, at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Break the Ice Lunar Challenge competition as a part of its Centennial Challenge series.
The team has not only won a cash prize of $25,000 (₹18 lakh) for their prototype but also gained an entry into phase-2 of the project for working with a prototype with the NASA for two years in the USA.
The team, led by Pranav Prasad from Washington, has Karanam Sai Ashish Kumar of Visakhapatnam and Amareswara Prasad of Tenali as members. While Ashish has done his M. Tech from Andhra University, Prasad has done B. Tech from Andhra University.
In phase-1 of the challenge, the teams had to design system architecture to excavate and transport the icy regolith (the dust on the moon). The challenge, which started on November 8, 2020, ended on June 18, 2021. On August 1, it was declared that 31 teams had submitted eligible proposals and on August 19, 2021, the 13 were announced.
“Water, one of the most important resources, is trapped in the icy regolith at the moon’s poles, inside permanently dark and cold craters. The challenge was to design a lunar vehicle that can excavate and extract at least 27 litres of water, a day, from the icy regolith. We have designed and demonstrated on our computer that we can extract at least 37 litres/day,” Ashish tells The Hindu .
In the past, Amar and I teamed up with another person and our team has won the 3rd prize in NASA’s Lunar Delivery Challenge in March, 2021, and won $2,000 cash prize and we were the finalists in NASA’s Gantry Challenge held in October, 2020.”
We had named our team as AA-Star (Amareswar and Ashish) and continued with the same name though Pranav is our team leader for this project. It was a challenging task and we sometimes used to work till 3 a.m. designing and analysing on the computer. Design and mapping of the craters on the moon was complex and we had to depend on more than six software for analysis of the design,” he says
“Pranav’s father T.G. Viswa Prasad is a film producer, working on the banner of People’s Media Factory, a Seattle-based film production company. Pranav is good at animation work and Amareswar has strong research background,” Ashish adds.
Amar and Ashish, in partnership with their friend Albin Baby, have established a startup in the city.