Israeli unmanned spacecraft to land on Moon in 2019

Pablo Tucker
July 12, 2018

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. In May, China launched a relay satellite that will orbit the moon and allow it to receive signals from a planned probe that will land on the far side of the moon.

"Our mission was never about winning the prize money - although $20 million would have been nice", said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby.

If successful, Israel would become the fourth country to land a craft on the moon, after the USA, the Soviet Union and China.

SpaceIL's spacecraft will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The SpaceIL organization participated in the competition for the Google Lunar XC Prize.


This illustration imagines what the spacecraft would look like on the moon.

SpaceIL President Morris Kahn has donated about $27 million to the effort and chose to proceed even after the contest deadline passed and effectively ended without any finalists achieving the goal.

An Israeli organisation said that it hopes to become the first non-governmental entity to land a spacecraft on the moon when it attempts to launch a module later this year.

Israel will launch its first lunar mission in December.

A successful mission would be a significant achievement, giving scientists a relatively low-priced spacecraft for future experiments, said Tal Inbar, head of the Space & UAV Research Center at The Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzilya, Israel.


"What we're doing is we're trying to replicate the Apollo effect in the United States", Kahn told reporters, referring to the surge in interest in science and engineering after the USA space program landed on the moon in 1969. Unlike bigger spacecraft that took four days to reach the moon, the smaller fuel capacity means SpaceIL must take an indirect way, orbiting the Earth to reach the moon, SpaceIL said. It measures about 2 meters in diameter and stands just a meter and a half high.

Once it touches down on the moon, the spacecraft will use its cameras to take photos and video of the lunar surface.

The program has always had STEM education as a secondary goal, aiming to encourage Israeli children to choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

For children from any country, SpaceIL introduced its Moon Kids website in English, chock full of fun interactive content about the moon and outer space.


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