The State of Israel is set to become only the fourth nation in the world to land a spacecraft on the surface of the moon, behind the United States, Russia, and China. And they are about to do it in a way that no other nation has done it before!
Now, let’s be clear – we’re not talking about Israelis actually walking on the moon. That’s a feat that even the United States has not done in over 46 years (if they ever did at all), and Russia and China have never sent men to the moon.
However, an Israeli nonprofit called SpaceIL announced in 2015 that they planned to visit the moon by the end of 2017. While the clock is ticking now, if the mission ever happens at all, it will mark the first time a lunar mission is backed by private donors, rather than government funds.
SpaceIL made the announcement as part of its entry in the Google Lunar Xprize, a $30 million competition to send an unmanned rover to the moon, back in 2015.
To win the prize money, the rover has to roam around for at least 500 meters and snap high-definition video and images that can be sent back to Earth. The SpaceIL team jokes that this lunar rover, like every self-respecting Israeli, will have the capability of sending a selfie back home.
SpaceIL was the first to sign a contract among the 16 total entrants, though all aimed to eventually get to the moon.
The team will be sending its rover by way of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher (The US-based space company Spaceflight Industries originally purchased the rocket and SpaceIL is now partnering with it to land the spacecraft safely on the moon.)
“Only three countries have ‘soft-landed’ a rover on the surface of the moon: the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China,” said SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman, in a statement. “Now the notion of the small state of Israel being added to this exclusive list look more promising than ever.”
The spacecraft will have the following components:
Once SpaceIL announced its launch contract, the remaining 15 teams had until December 31, 2016, to announce their own launch contracts.
In the end, there were 5 total teams that made it to the final cut:
According to Xprize, parts for the newly updated spacecraft are already beginning to arrive at the team’s facility in preparation for the 2017 launch.
“This takes us one huge step closer to [realizing] our vision of recreating an ‘Apollo effect’ in Israel,” Privman said, referring to the 1969 space craze that got a generation of American kids interested in science.
Israelis won’t be setting foot on the moon, but they’ll be breaking major ground nonetheless. And we at the Calling Out Community can’t wait to see it happen.