When Google Lunar XPRIZE launched in 2007, the tens of millions of dollars in prizes were enough to intrigue several entrants. However, the SpaceIL non-profit organization always had a different goal in mind: to be the first Israeli spacecraft to land safely on the Moon. The vision of SpaceIL was to move beyond the Google Lunar X Prize competition, to transform this lunar mission into a national mission. To serve as an inspiration of the people of Israel for generations to come.
More about SpaceIL
Established in 2011, SpaceIL is a non-profit organization founded by three young engineers: Yonatan Winetraub, Kfir Damari, and Yariv Bash. As the only Israeli representative, SpaceIL was a proud entrant into Google Lunar XPRIZE. The goal of Google Lunar XPRIZE was straightforward: build, launch, and land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon.
SpaceIL was the first entrant into the competition to announce a signed launch contract, becoming the first entrant to reach this project milestone in October 2015. They were one of the five remaining finalists in the competition by January 2017. While the competition ended in 2018 when Google withdrew its sponsorship, the journey that SpaceIL had set out to achieve would not be stopped.
Among the select few
If everything goes accordingly to plan, the SpaceIL craft mission means that Israel joins a club that is so exclusive that it only has three current members. That is because only China, the United States, and Russia have achieved a controlled landing on the moon’s surface before.
Russia was the first to land on the moon with their Luna 9 probe in February 1966, and the United States landed Surveyor 1 in June the same year. The most recent entrant is China, who landed their Chang’e 3 craft in 2013. While other countries may have been able to reach the moon, their scientific probes crashed on the moon’s surface.
Inspiring future generations
While the initial reason that SpaceIL was founded might have been the Google Lunar XPRIZE contest, they now want to inspire future generations and launch an “Apollo Effect” within Israel. This should serve as inspiration, to make sure that younger people think differently about math, technology, engineering, and science. Given that Israel has a critical need for more engineers and scientists despite their technological excellence, this is certainly one of those benefits that we cannot afford to overlook.
More about the lander
SpaceIL intends to launch the 1,300-pound lunar lander called “Sparrow.” Sparrow is the temporary moniker of the craft until receives its official name. The lunar landing will be navigated through a computer about as powerful as a smartphone and with autonomous software. The intention is for Sparrow to take panoramic photos and record video as it descends onto the moon.
After the mission is complete, the spacecraft is going to remain on the moon. There it will proudly display the flag of the State of Israel and serve as a reminder and inspiration for people to come.
While we have to wait a bit to see the actual launch of SpaceIL, the company has set a new date for early 2019.