Israel will launch a spacecraft in December that will land on the moon next February. SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit, was founded in 2011 and has received funding from various sources, including the Adelson Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, and the Israel Space Agency. According to SpaceIL, it is poised at the "most advanced" with regard to landing an unmanned vehicle on the surface of the moon, thus introducing Israel to the exclusive club of “superpowers that have managed to reach the moon: the United States, the former Soviet Union and China."
In December, the Israeli spacecraft will be taken aloft on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the expectation that it will land on February 13, 2019, and complete its programmed mission within two days. On the lunar surface, the probe will collect data that will be examined at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
Earlier this year, SpaceIL announced that it had worked out some bugs with its propulsion system. "Recently, the tests of the propulsion system of the spacecraft developed by Israel Aerospace Industries have been successfully completed," the company said. In 2016, the SpaceIL had a promotional campaign at Ben Gurion Airport with a model of the craft, asking travelers to send a selfie with the spacecraft that will be taken to the surface of the Moon.
Google announced a competition for a $30 million prize in 2007 with the goal of seeing a team land a probe on the Moon by March 31, 2018. However, Google announced in January this year that the prize would not be going to any of the original 33 teams that had been working towards the goal because none were able to make the deadline. By early this year, the number of contestants was whittled down to five. "Today we announce that after consulting our teams over the last few months, that there will not be a launch by March 31st, 2018, and our grand prize will go unclaimed. We are exploring a number of ways to proceed, to continue to support our teams," XPRIZE announced on Twitter.
Undaunted, SpaceIL announced on its website then that it would continue “to promote the project with full vigor to meet its goal of landing a Blue-and-White spacecraft on the Moon in 2018—thereby making Israel the fourth country in the world to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon." SpaceIL declared, "We are extraordinarily grateful to Google for enabling this 10-year journey with us and for having the foresight and courage to support and catalyze the commercial space industry, which was the ultimate goal of this competition."
Five private international teams, from India, Japan, the United States, and an international team, had been working on landing a rover on the lunar surface that would travel at least 500 meters and transmit data back to Earth to win the prize money.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.