PETALING JAYA - The dream has taken about nine years so far, but a team of aerospace engineers here is determined to land a rover on the moon.
Team Independence-X is among the five international teams vying for the top prize of US$20mil (RM89mil) in the Google Lunar XPrize competition.
It is the only Malaysian and South-East Asian team competing.
The privately funded teams have been tasked with landing a robotic probe each on the moon and have it travel 500m while sending high-definition video images back to Earth.
They must launch by the end of this year.
Founder of Independence-X Aerospace Izmir Yamin said that after entering the competition in 2008, it has partnered with US team Synergy Moon for the final frenzied lap of the mission.
"We're making the lunar landing module and will be able to have our branding, names, logo and the Malaysian flag on it when the rover is launched," said Izmir, who is also team leader.
Synergy Moon is supplying the rocket.
The final tests are slated to run between April and June in Malaysia and the United States.
Izmir said a win could open up a whole new market for the country in space exploration and related technologies.
"It can mean more businesses coming here, for manufacturing, engineering and designing.
"It can also help existing companies here get more jobs because of the credentials and credibility that we will have," he said.
Independence-X wants more Malaysians to be part of this race to the moon.
It is calling for "200 lunar mission volunteers" to sign up at its website by the month's end for various jobs in technical areas, public relations, project management, animation and design, and other fields.
The team had been asked by Singapore to collaborate on an ASEAN space hub.
But the recently announced National Space Policy by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak has made the team think twice, said Izmir.
He said the team's mission was in line with national policy, which will see the country developing aerospace technologies and turning these into economic contributors.
Also, Independence-X has been working on rocket technology, via its Dedicated Nano Launch Vehicle project, which began in 2003. This is also a first in Malaysia.
The Nasa-certified vehicle is expected to be commercially ready in 2023.