Israeli company plans lunar landing next year

James Marshall
July 11, 2018

For the first time in its history, Israel will have a spacecraft on the moon next year, the SpaceIL corporation announced Tuesday.

The project began when young engineers - Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub - made a decision to build a spacecraft and take part in the Lunar Xprize competition sponsored by Google, which originally included a $20 million prize for the first group of contestants to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon.

The unmanned mission is a collaboration between privately owned Israel Aerospace Industries and the non-profit organization SpaceIL, which participated in the Google Lunar XPrize competition that ended in March with no ultimate victor.

"As we went deeper into the project and the more people joined, we understood its complexity", Damari said.

SpaceIL explained: "While the other Google Lunar X Prize teams developed large rovers to move the required 500 meters on the Moon's surface, in order to conserve mass, SpaceIL developed the idea of a space hop: to have the spacecraft land and then take off again with the fuel left in its propulsion system, and then perform another landing 500 meters away".

If successful, SpaceIL's $95 million project, funded largely by billionaire Morris Kahn, will become the first private enterprise endeavor to match the Moon exploration achievements of Russian Federation, the United States and China.

"I thought this was a great idea", he said, "and I asked them - 'do you have any money?'"

Israel announced Tuesday that it will launch its first lunar mission in December 2018, hoping to become the fourth country to land on the moon, following the U.S., Russian Federation and China.

Building the spacecraft cost $95 million to date.

Yossi Weiss, the CEO of IAI, said conquering space is not just a way to prove technological prowess, but also an increasingly urgent need for a human race rapidly dilapidating its resources. "Earth is becoming small", and ultimately "the future of humanity is in space". It will orbit Earth in expanding ellipses and, about two months later, cross into the moon's orbit. Kahn told journalists that he hoped to inspire young Israelis to take up the study of science.

SpaceIL president Morris Kahn expressed his excitement for the project, saying that the launch of the spacecraft is a national accomplishment that can put the country in the world's space map.

SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the worldwide Google Lunar XPRIZE competition.

"Since we began you can see more and more start-ups and projects that deal with space in the civilian aspect", he said.

Part of the Google Lunar X Prize competition was to design a space probe capable of moving 500m after landing.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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