“Space: The Final Frontier.” So says the theme song of the Star Trek TV Show. However, the thought of an Israeli spacecraft has never caught anyone’s attention. Until now.
On Tuesday, Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub announced their intention to compete in the Google Lunar X Prize Competition and attempt to send an unmanned vehicle to the moon that would be able to send videos and photos back to earth. The competition aims to encourage research into affordable ways to send robots into space for exploration purposes. The winning team must raise the funds themselves and succeed, at which point they will received $13 million. The second prize is 5 million and other prizes are smaller amounts of money up that total $5 million. 13 groups have registered and the Israeli group, now named SpaceIL, is the only Israeli group.
The announcement was issued at a space conference in Tel Aviv University’s Yuval Ne’eman Science and Technology Center. The group is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “put the Israeli flag on the moon.” They aim to “build a small space robot that will make the long journey from the earth to the moon” with an additional goal of promoting technological education in Israel.
The trio, all engineers and computer programmers, aims to send a small box the size of a Coca-Cola bottle into space. The box – which will hold the robot – will be put on a commercial launcher which will be sent into orbit. At that point, the goal will be to pilot the capsule to the moon. According to Bash, the majority of the space will be taken up by the gas tank, not the robot itself, which is only supposed to last one or two months at the maximum.
As of now, about $50,000 dollars of their $8 million target. They are confident they will meet their target. Damari says that they will attract the donors by giving the prize money to the Israeli education system. They want to attract young people to technology, so they have no qualms about giving the money to the education system.
Winetraub says that in 2012, people should look at the moon with a high-powered telescope because there will be an Israeli flag flying on the surface.