Independence X set to take Malaysia to the moon

Malaysia’s Independence X team hopes to take the country to the moon by winning the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. — lunar.xprize.org videograb
Malaysia’s Independence X team hopes to take the country to the moon by winning the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. — lunar.xprize.org videograb

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 15 — Independence X, the sole representative from Malaysia and Asean at the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition aims to develop a rocket launcher for the country, if it wins the USD20 million (RM89 million) prize.

The team comprising 10 experts from various fields, led by Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) mechanical engineering graduate Mohd Izmir Yamin is among five teams at the finals of the competition.

According to Mohd Izmir, Henry the team’s robotic spacecraft which measures 1.4 metres in height, two metres in width and weighs 850 kilogrammes is set to take Malaysia to the moon.

He said Henry, currently in the construction phase would be equipped with a HD image camera and water sensor to emit any discovery of water source on the moon.

“The production process is highly complicated requiring every team member to play their individual roles. We tried several new concepts which we have documented to be patented.

“This competition is a stepping stone for us to commercialise on the skills and product created. Within a short time we managed to learn various techniques in mastering rocket production technology and we are confident we will overcome all challenges,” he told Bernama recently.

Mohd Izmir said Independence X was working hard with Synergy Moon from the United States to try to land Henry on Mare Imbrium, a location close to the moon’s equator.

“Henry will be sent into space at the end of this year and with a speed of 14km per second, it is expected to take between two to three days to cover the 375,000-kilometre (km) distance from earth,” he said.

Elaborating on the rules of the competition organised by the search engine giant, Mohd Izmir said once Henry has safely landed it must move forward 500 metres from its landing site before sending high quality photograph and video to earth.

“A panel of judges will assess the materials sent by Henry based on various criteria. Besides the USD5 million (RM22 million) reward if we succeed in landing on the moon, we get a bonus if we discover the rocket landing sites of other countries,” he said.

On preparations for landing risk, Mohd Izmir said Independence X had taken steps not to use any plastic or rubber materials on Henry to avoid the effects of vacuum in space.

“We use lightweight but strong metal that is aluminium alloy to withstand the landing process and the effects of radiation from the sun and stars which can damage Henry’s internal electronic systems.

“The technique that we designed is able to withstand up to 30kg of radiation,” he said .

Admitting that Malaysia is still new in the space industry compared to the four competitors from Israel, India, Japan and the United States, Mohd Izmir said Independence X would utilise every possible skill to realise their aim in bringing honour to the country.

“So far Israel is the most powerful, followed by India. We also note that Japan and the United States are the longest in the industry, nevertheless Malaysia still has the potential though ours is a low-cost mission,” he said.

Mohd Izmir who is optimistic in developing the country’s space industry welcomed individuals who have the expertise in the field to contribute to Independence X.

“We hope Malaysians will channel their assistance be it in the form of knowledge, skills or funding towards this project,” he said before ending the interview.

Apart from Mohd Izmir, other members of Independence X are Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman as adviser, Bostami Ahmad (designer), Hafiz Hajeedar (artist), Aiman Mohd Misri (graphics), Major Rashidy Zulkifli (military), Ilgiz Zagidulin (scientist) and three engineers, Dr Clement Lo, Ahmad Syahmi Sayuti and C. Sundaravathanan. — Bernama

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