As the moon’s nighttime comes closer the chances of bringing India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission back to life are diminishing and almost gone.
The mission, which consists of the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover has been in a sleeping mode since September 2. They were supposed to wake up on September 22, but that didn’t happen. ISRO is still attempting to receive signals but it seems unlikely that a miracle will occur.
In our previous stories and posts, we’ve mentioned that neither the rover nor the lander is equipped with heaters and the Moon’s temperature drops to a bone-chilling -200 degrees Celsius . So, if they manage to send a signal back, it would be like a miracle on the Moon. However, in science we rely more on facts than on miracles.
ISRO has been making attempts to reestablish contact with the lander-rover pair since sunlight returned to the Shiv Shakri Point, but these efforts have yielded no results.
As the lunar night is set to commence on September 30, the prospects of reconnecting with the spacecraft are diminishing. While there is still a glimmer of hope, it appears unlikely that the lander-rover duo will power up once more.
Nevertheless, it’s important to note that Chandrayaan-3 can be considered the cherry on top of the cake. The mission has already achieved success by completing all of its tasks according its schedule
A small American company’s robotic spacecraft has brought the United States back to the surface of the moon for the first time in more than a half-century.
Intuitive Machines, a Houston-based space company, landed on Thursday, becoming the first commercial company to reach the moon intact. The unprecedented achievement is a win for NASA, which has invested $2.6 billion in contracts with Intuitive Machines and several other vendors to deliver instruments to the moon over the next four years.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. A few hours before the landing, flight controllers discovered the spacecraft’s laser rangefinders, which help it avoid hazards on the ground, weren’t working. The team decided to take one more lap around the moon, which bought engineers a couple more hours to troubleshoot the problem. During that orbit, they uploaded a software patch to use onboard NASA lasers, which hadn’t previously been tested in space.
Then, there were some communication challenges, but NASA was quick to call the landing a success, even before a photo was beamed back to Earth.
“Today, for the first time in the history of humanity, a commercial company — an American company — launched and led the voyage up there,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson in a pre-recorded message during the broadcast. “Today is a day that shows the power and promise of NASA’s commercial partnerships.”
The moon lander dubbed Odysseus touched down on Malapert A crater, about 200 miles from the lunar south pole, just before 6:30 p.m. ET. Many nations and private ventures have set their sights on the region because of its ice, thought to be buried in the polar craters. The natural resource is coveted because it could supply drinking water, air, and rocket fuel for future missions, ushering a new era in spaceflight.
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s former head of science, once described each of the first CLPS endeavors as “taking a shot on goal.” The sports analogy means not every attempt will be victorious, but overall the program will give NASA a lot of chances to achieve its moon-to-Mars goals. By outsourcing NASA’s lunar deliveries — rather than fully owning each mission — the agency believes it will save money. The contract with Intuitive Machines for this mission was $118 million.
“We don’t know how many of the early attempts will be successful,” said Joel Kearns, NASA science’s deputy associate administrator for exploration, during a news conference in November. “But I can tell you that these American companies are technically strong and rigorous, savvy, they’re resourceful, and they’re driven to be successful. They want to secure that first mover advantage in generating this new lunar economy.”
But observers have questioned how cost-effective the initiative will truly be, given the riskiness of flying on inexperienced spacelines. In January, Astrobotic Technologies, the first of the CLPS vendors, tried to get to the moon, but never reached lunar orbit due to a detrimental fuel leak. NASA spent $108 million on that mission and lost five payloads in the process.
“If we’re flying missions at one-tenth of the cost of a NASA mission, and we fail two of them, we still get eight missions for that same price,” Kearns said in a pre-recorded statement during the landing broadcast. “Even with one or two or three failures, this is still a very economical proposition.”
The likelihood of success, especially for novice space programs, is still slim. Historically, less than half of all missions to land on the moon have arrived without crashing. The lunar exosphere — an extremely thin atmosphere of gasses barely held by the moon’s gravity — provides virtually no drag to slow a spacecraft down as it approaches the ground. Furthermore, there are no GPS systems on the moon to help guide a craft to its landing spot. Engineers have to compensate for these shortcomings from 239,000 miles away.
Over the past five years, the private sector has tried and failed. An Israeli nonprofit and company collaborated in 2019 on the so-called Beresheet moon mission, which crashed on the lunar surface after an orientation component malfunctioned. Last April, Japanese startup ispace ran out of fuel on its descent and ultimately crashed. Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander never made it that far and ultimately broke apart as it crashed back to Earth.
But Intuitive Machines’ landing could instill confidence in the burgeoning lunar economy.
“I know this was a nail biter, but we are on the surface, and we are transmitting,” said Stephen Altemus, Intuitive Machines’ CEO. “Welcome to the moon.”
The adoption of open banking and instant payments is moving slowly in the United States compared to other markets around the world, for example, Brazil. That said, the new program FedNow went live in July 2023, and data-sharing regulations are forthcoming, so more potential is on the horizon.
Until then, the co-founders of Zūm Rails say the experiences consumers have with payments continues to be fragmented, meaning companies have to create a tech stack to provide a wide range of services to their customers. The Montreal-based company is taking the approach of providing an all-in-one payments gateway that merges open banking with instant payments.
Marc Milewski and Miles Schwartz started the company in 2019. Milewski’s background is in treasury payments and he was an early employee at accounts receivable automation software company Versapay. While there, he worked on what ultimately became Canada’s first webhook-enabled EFT gateway.
“You learn about all the problems everyone has moving money,” Milewski told TechCrunch. “Open banking was discussed, but I thought it was more about payments. Miles and I talked about building a whole new gateway that unified these experiences. Companies don’t want to be payment experts — that’s our job.”
They started building software to simplify the complexity of moving money via different payment rails so companies can use whichever approach makes sense for their business. Their technology leverages “omni rails” for payments, whether it is traditional credit, debit or electronic funds transfer options. It also provides for real-time options through partners, including Visa Direct, Mastercard, MX and Canada’s Interac network.
Zūm Rails manages the flow of money, including the reduction of fraud and failed transactions, by verifying a customer’s identity, linking directly with bank accounts and facilitating payments via the method of the customer’s choosing.
The company now processes more than $1 billion in payments through its platform each month for over 500 companies, including Questrade, Coinsquare and Desjardins, which is a large federation of credit unions in North America. In the past year, the company grew over 200% and launched in the U.S. at the end of 2023.
Milewski and Schwartz bootstrapped Zūm Rails, building it up to a team of 30 people. Last year, the pair decided to raise venture capital.
“We reached the point where we realize that bootstrapping is no longer healthy for our business,” Schwartz told TechCrunch. “We have some big initiatives we want to work on and grow on. Now it makes sense to do it all at once, and it’s healthy for the business to now go all-in and use the fuel.”
Zūm Rails’ technology leverages “omni rails” for payments, whether it is traditional credit, debit or electronic funds transfer options. Image Credits: Zūm Rails
They closed on a $10.5 million Series A funding round, led by Arthur Ventures, and intend to invest in growing in the U.S. and expanding its payments offerings that will include the introduction of new banking-as-a-service features for merchants. In addition, Zūm Rails is working on a FedNow offering in the U.S. that will enable businesses to send and receive FDIC-insured payments within seconds.
Zūm Rails’ performance to date “is really impressive,” Jake Olson, vice president at Arthur Ventures, told TechCrunch. He called the company “a great fit” for its investment thesis, which is high-growth and capital-efficient B2B software companies.
“Achieving profitability without any outside capital is impressive,” Olson said. “Their product positioning is also really compelling. Rather than weaving together different systems, Zūm Rails can provide organizations with a comprehensive solution that powers the entire transaction journey and enables them to have a seamless experience for their end users. Any organization that views the streamline digital financial interaction coupled with the instant payments capability as a competitive advantage will be a great fit for Zūm Rails.”
Investing app Grifin today officially launched its anticipated investing model called “Adaptive Investing,” which enables you to automatically invest in your favorite brands that you frequently shop from.
Grifin was founded in 2017 with the hope of making investing less intimidating and normalizing it for people who aren’t that financially savvy. To date, Grifin has raised more than $11 million from a notable list of investors, including TTV Capital, Rise of the Rest, Gaingels, NevCaut Ventures, Mana Ventures, Sidecut Ventures, Miami Angels and Playtap Media Ventures, along with Witz Ventures co-founder Austin Hankwitz and GGV Capital managing partner Hans Tung. The company says it sees about 20,000 unique new app installs per month.
Grifin’s new patent-pending technology is an evolution of its original model, which follows the premise of “Stock Where You Shop,” giving you a chance to explore the intimidating world of investing by aligning your shopping habits with stock choices.
“Investing, and even having a healthy positive relationship with money, is an incredibly difficult thing to do and achieve,” co-founder Aaron Froug tells TechCrunch. “The current system simply isn’t geared towards the individual, even with mobile access and 0% commission apps claiming to ‘open up’ investing to all. It still requires a lot of emotional energy, confidence and an understanding of how investing works. Most people still don’t feel like they have enough money to get started and even the most financially adept people I know don’t know what is inside most ETFs [exchange traded funds]. All of it is cloudy and complicated. None of it is centered around the individual.”
Image Credits: Grifin
The Adaptive Investing model aims to give users more flexibility by integrating new functionality into the app, including the ability to pause automatic payments, increase/decrease how much you want to spend and manually invest more money in a company. It also introduces a “Secret Cash” function, allowing for non-public purchases and putting more money away as cash for their future.
“This patent-pending technology builds on the original premise by integrating new functionality to allow for a more intuitive and adaptive approach to investing, centered not just around people’s daily spending habits, but how much they want to invest,” Froug adds.
By default, Grifin automatically invests $1 per transaction. For instance, when you buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks, the app withdraws $1 from your bank account, and you get $1 of SBUX stock. You can also manually increase the investment amount to a maximum of $99.
Image Credits: Grifin
However, just because you enjoy a certain brand, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a smart investment. Grifin now added a new “Disable Company” feature, allowing you to stop or avoid investing in certain companies. There’s also an option to pause your investments for a week.
“We are also keenly aware that just because a person spends at a specific place, they might not want to invest there… By investing in small amounts, as low as $1 at a time, the aim is to help people to learn to navigate the world of investing without incurring too many negative consequences if they don’t get it right,” Froug says.
Plus, Froug argues that Adaptive Investing reduces the impact of single-stock exposure since it encourages a diverse profile as consumers usually spend money across a wide range of companies — phone/internet bills, gas, monthly subscription services and so forth.
“I’ve been personally using our app for a little over two years and I’ve invested in 115 unique companies,” he notes.
Additionally, Grifin is planning a redesign of its app, which will include a premium version as well as an AI chatbot to help people learn how to invest.