A significant achievement for Israel: SpaceIL, the Israeli team in the race to land a spacecraft on the Moon, qualified for the final stage of the international competition. SpaceIL is one of only five teams to make it to the finals alongside India’s Team Indus, Team Hakuto from Japan, Moon Express from the United States and the multi-national team, Synergy Moon.
These are the only teams who successfully achieved a key competition marker: the signing of a launch contract, symbolizing a teams’ “ticket to the Moon.” This achievement positioned Israel one step closer to joining the prestigious circle of superpowers who have reached the Moon already; the country would join the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.
The Google Lunar XPRIZE competition which began in 2007 originally attracted 33 teams from around the world. This international Moon Race stimulates private groups to build, launch and land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon. Within a few years, most of the competitors dropped out upon realizing the depth and complexity of the challenge, bringing the race down to 16 teams.
Google Lunar XPRIZE management subsequently announced that teams unable to produce launch contracts by the end of 2016 would be automatically eliminated. Now, after the end of 2016 and the start of the final year of the competition, the die is cast: only five teams have verified launch contracts – with Israel’s SpaceIL the first to have reached that milestone – and remain as competition finalists.
Dr. Eran Privman, CEO of SpaceIL, said on Tuesday: “We have waited for this moment for a long time. Being announced as finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition officially confirms what we always knew: Israel is at the forefront of global technology. SpaceIL emerging as a competition finalist enhances our team’s ability to ‘shoot for the Moon’. Our hard work over the past six years is bearing fruit and we’re looking forward to the historic day of SpaceIL’s launch and to see the first Israeli spacecraft landing on the Moon.”
Meanwhile, this week SpaceIL received a generous contribution from businessman Sami Sagol whose significant donation brings the spacecraft closer to a Moon landing. Sagol joins other philanthropists including Mr. Morris Kahn, the Adelson Family Foundation, the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Foundation, Bezeq, the Israel Space Agency and others.
In addition, the organization enjoys the support of Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, Israel Aerospace Industries and leaders from academic institutions such as the Weizmann Institute of Science and Tel Aviv University.