Almost 50 years ago, Russia and the U.S. raced each other to be the first country to send a spaceship to space. In the last years, China and Russia are winning the race to space, but Israel isn’t too far behind. The tiny country that has 15 satellites circling the Earth has a good chance of landing a spacecraft on the moon. Israel launched its first moon mission from Florida on Thursday the 21st of February .
It all began in 2007 when three Israeli friends decided to join the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, an international race to the moon. The competition challenged 28 teams (from countries such as Chile, Canada, the United States, and more). The challenge was to build a private spacecraft that can land on the moon and move 500 meters in any direction. It also had to send HD photos and video back to earth.
The competition hoped to inspire engineers and inventors from all over the world to make robots that can go to space. The teams will use as little money as they can for the project, because they don’t get money from the country. The competition was also a great way for teams to come together in the next giant leap in space travel and discovery.”
But why send robots to the moon when there are many other planets to see? Google Lunar’s website said they chose the moon because it’s Earth’s closest neighbor and it is an important step in traveling to the rest of the world.
The XPRIZE competition offered $30m in money and prizes to the winners. SpaceIL, the Israeli team, was one of the five finalists when the competition ended in 31 March 2018 without a winner. The Israeli team decided to launch the mission anyway. If the launch is successful, the Israeli spacecraft will arrive on the near side of the moon in April following a two-month journey through 6.5 million km of space.
SpaceIL’s spacecraft, named Beresheet, is just about the size of a dishwasher, and has the newest technology. It is unique because instead of using wheels it will “hop” from its landing place to another place 500 meters away using rocket power.
“Our goal is to create a good chance for Israel to get to the Moon so we can put the Israeli flag there,” said Yonatan Weintraub, a member of SpaceIL. “People all over the world will look at Israel in a new way. To put it simply, this win would mean that Israel is an important player in the science world. It would also encourage schools to make their science programs better.”
Getting to the moon safely costs a lot of money. To help cover the $100 million cost of sending a robot to the moon, many people donated money to the team. Morris Kahn, a South African-born Israeli billionaire, donated more than $40 million to the project and helped raise millions more. Many science and technology organizations in Israel also supported SpaceIL.
“Only three countries have soft-landed a spacecraft on the moon: the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China,” said SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman. “Now the idea of the small state of Israel being added to this list looks more possible than ever.”
Israeli engineers and scientists have wanted to travel to the moon for a long time. “What we are looking for is to really follow the dream that men have been dreaming about for hundreds of years. And the dream is to get to far away stars or any place like the moon,” Privman added.
Would you want to be part of the SpaceIL team?
Do you think that it’s important that Israel participates in this competition?
- What day did Israel’s first moon mission take place?
- Why do the teams use little money for the project?
- What do the teams have to do to win the competition?
- Why did they choose to travel to the moon and not to a different planet?
- What is unique about SpaceIl’s spacecraft?
- What are the benefits for Israel If the Israeli team wins?