Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the first Israeli spacecraft to the Moon

Who are we?

SpaceIL is a non-profit organization which was established in 2011 with the aim of landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon. It was founded by three young engineers – Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub, who chose to meet the challenge presented by the global Google Lunar XPRIZE Competition – a modern-day international competition to land a privately-funded unmanned spacecraft on the moon. SpaceIL is the only Israeli representative participating in the competition. We have pledged to donate the $20 million first prize, if we win, to advance science and scientific-technological education in Israel. SpaceIL strives to create an ‘Apollo effect’: to inspire Israel’s next generation to study and pursue a professional future in science, engineering, technology and mathematics.

In October 2015 SpaceIL reached a dramatic milestone when it became the first contestant to sign a launch contract – a “flight ticket” to the moon onboard a SpaceX rocket.

33 teams originally registered in the competition, and as of January 2017, only 5 remain, including SpaceIL. We were the first team to sign a launch contract, and are therefore in the lead. The other 4 teams are from India, Japan and the USA, and there is also an international team.

Why is this important?

This has become a national project which is already an extraordinary achievement and a source of inspiration for Israel’s young generation

  • A national project: Although we originally started out as a privately sponsored project within the framework of the Google Lunar XPRIZE Competition, SpaceIL has already stretched the boundaries, and has become a national project, in terms of both the technological achievement of landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, and the diverse educational activities that we have developed and are delivering nation-wide.
  • Pride and prestige for Israel: Up till now, only three superpowers, with the massive resources at their disposal, succeeded to land on the moon: the USA, Russia and China. We want to prove to the world that even a small country, with a small budget, can join this prestigious club.
  • Educating the next generation and securing Israel’s technological status as “The Startup Nation”: We believe that the impact of the historic launch of the SpaceIL spacecraft, its journey to the moon and its landing, which will take place over the course of several weeks, will continue to be felt for years, thanks to the educational programs that we have developed to support this technological mission. The launch will no doubt be a consequential, extraordinary and inspiring event. We hope and believe that it will set in motion an ‘Apollo effect’ in Israel, and will inspire our next generation to study science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM); will change their perception of these subjects; will create a sense of capability among boys and girls; and will encourage them to dream big even in our little country. We aspire to transform the discourse in Israel, and to motivate the members of the young generation – both male and female – to regard STEM studies as an opportunity for an exciting future.
  • New hi-tech field: SpaceIL is paving the way for a new local industry – a private sector space industry, which has the potential to become a significant, pioneering hi-tech field, conforming to the global “new space” trend.

How do we intend to create an ‘Apollo effect’ in Israel?

We are not waiting for the launch in order to inspire Israeli children. To date, SpaceIL has delivered diverse educational programs to half a million kids throughout the country, with the help of our volunteers. From Day 1, we have established a network of volunteers who operate nationwide, telling the story of SpaceIL and the first Israeli spacecraft that will be launched to the moon to kindergarten and school kids. Our volunteers devote their time and energy to the important mission of educating and inspiring Israel’s future generation; without them, we would not be able to realize our educational vision.

We strive to transform the discourse in Israel, and to encourage children and youths to choose to study science and engineering and engage in entrepreneurship, and to recognize the exciting opportunities such studies will present them with. To achieve this, we deliver programs to different age groups, and operate on various levels – exposure, leveraging and in-depth processes. We aim to reach an audience that is as large and diverse as possible; we collaborate with strategic partners from different sectors in order to leverage the capabilities and strengths of all parties; and we develop programs that are intended to enable students to experience in-depth processes that promote and develop complex thinking and arouse curiosity and interest.

We place emphasis on children in middle school, who are at a stage where they are about to make a decision concerning their study track in high school.

Who supports our project?

Since SpaceIL’s establishment, many have generously supported it. Our main donors are the Miriam and Sheldon Adelson Family Foundation and Mr. Morris Kahn, who served as our Chairman of the Board until recently. Additional donors include Sami Sagol, Lynn Schusterman, Steven Grand and others. SpaceIL has formed exceptional collaborations between the private sector, government companies and the academia. Among are partners are Israel Aerospace Industries, Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel-Aviv University, Israel Space Agency, the Ministry of Science, Bezeq, dozens of engineers and hundreds of volunteers.

Why is Morris Kahn no longer Chairman of the Board?

Until recently, our generous donor, Morris Kahn, served as SpaceIL’s Chairman of the Board. Mr. Kahn has donated more than $18 million to SpaceIL in the recent years. After careful consideration, it was agreed that the fact that he is serving as Chairman, while also being a major donor, may be hampering our efforts to raise the funds still required to complete this project. Mr. Kahn continues to be a great believer in SpaceIL, and has pledged to donate a further $10 million of his own, provided $20 million are donated by other private donors and the Israeli government.

How much does the project cost? How much has been raised thus far? And what was it spent on?

Landing a spacecraft on the moon is by no means an inexpensive undertaking! We are doing what NASA and large space agencies in other countries have spent billions of dollars on, with a budget of only $85 million. Up till now, $55 million have been raised, and invested mainly in planning, designing, developing and building the spacecraft; in collaborations; and in manpower.

How much money is still needed to complete the mission? What will this sum be used for?

To complete its mission, SpaceIL needs another $30 million. Businessman, philanthropist and major donor Morris Kahn has pledged another $10 million if the remaining sum of $20 million will be raised from other private donors and from the Israeli government.

To date, the Ministry of Science has undertaken to provide financial support at the scope of $2.5 million. It is important to note that according to the terms of the competition, the government can donate a total of $8.5 million – 10% of the total budget.

The remaining sum is needed to conduct a series of costly tests on the spaceship in special facilities – at an Israel Aerospace Industries site, and also abroad – in order to ensure that it is able to withstand the extreme conditions of space; and to cover the cost of the launch.

So what remains to be done?

We’re nearly there! We will complete the construction of the spacecraft by  mid December 2017 , and will be able to proceed to the testing phase, which will last several months. During this phase, the spacecraft will undergo a series of very costly tests in special facilities – at an Israel Aerospace Industries site and also abroad – in order to ensure that it is able to withstand the extreme conditions of space.

Why did we wait until now to raise more money?

During the past year we have been aware of the gap in our budget and have made efforts to raise the necessary funds. As time is short, we have decided to enlist the help of the public and to raise awareness to SpaceIL’s monumental mission, in order to locate potential donors and gain financial aid from the government.

Why has the competition deadline been postponed?

Engineering projects inherently involve a measure of uncertainty, particularly ones as innovative and pioneering as this space project. Although the competing teams and the competition organizers did not expect the accomplishment of the mission to take so long, the postponement of the deadline was necessary in view of the fact that landing a spacecraft on the moon is an exceedingly complex mission, and none of the teams succeeded to meet the defined milestones by the predetermined dates.

If the Google prize is $20 million, what is the economic logic behind the project?

The prize of $20 million is not intended to cover the costs of the project, but to set in motion the international trend of developing a private sector, less expensive space industry. SpaceIL and its donors have undertaken to dedicate the prize money, if we win, to advance scientific and technological education.

Is this a crowdfunding campaign?

Although we are extremely grateful for each donation from the public, even the smallest, and find the support of these donors heartwarming, we did not launch a crowdfunding campaign. Clearly, raising $20 million within one month is an unrealistic crowdfunding goal.

The purpose of our campaign is to enlist the public’s help in finding donors who would contribute significant sums, and in receiving financial assistance from the government. We aim to make the public aware of the fact that the project is at such an advanced stage, in order to also raise the awareness of potential donors and governmental entities, so that they would donate the sum required to complete this national mission.

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