In just a few months, India will probably lay claim to a small piece of real estate on the moon. That is once TeamIndus, the country’s privately-funded space pioneers, land a rover on Earth’s closest neighbour in space.

Yes, when earthlings land a craft on the moon, a two-km radius around the vehicle becomes sovereign territory. The US owns a piece of it, so do Russia and China.

As of now, there is a 80 per cent chance of that happening and in six to nine months when the actual launch happens the probability of success will go up to over 90 per cent, says Rahul Narayan, Founder, TeamIndus, who leads a 120-member group of young enthusiasts, including engineering students and those with a maximum of about five years experience, supported by about a couple of dozen scientists from ISRO. This is the Indian contingent that has been selected as one of 30 international teams that are vying to put a vehicle on the moon, through an entirely privately funded project.

Addressing the gathering at an event organised by the Chennai International Centre, Narayan, who is aiming for the moon literally, said the ₹500-crore project will not only land a lunar vehicle using ISRO’s PSLV rocket, but the vehicle will have to move 500 metres and send back data to win the challenge. What he thought would be a two-month project back in 2011, is still a few months away after about seven years. But well on its way to achieving what no Indian has done before.

ISRO has set a vehicle in lunar orbit, but this will be for the first time someone is going to land a vehicle on the moon, he pointed out.

Sheelika Ravishankar, who goes by the designation of Jedi Master on the team, said there is a chance for nine cities to become a part of mission operation centres that can monitor the run-up to the launch and the rest of the programme. All it takes will be for 200 people to fork out about ₹5 lakh each for TeamIndus to set up a mission centre.

Lakshmi Narayanan, Co Founder, Cognizant Technology Solutions, said the space programme is not about a conventional investment opportunity but something that “needs to be done for the future”.