Israeli space exploration company SpaceIL, which aspires to put the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, is one of many companies vying for a $30 million award from Google’s Lunar XPRIZE competition. The winning team will be the first to send a craft to the Moon, travel at least 500 meters there and take and transmit back to Earth HDTV pictures of it by the end of 2015.
SpaceIL is a non-profit organization and should it win the competition then the $30 million prize would go to paying for the $36 million that it has spent on the project. It is building the world’s smallest spacecraft loaded with groundbreaking innovation in space exploration.
Leveraging Israeli expertise in micro-satellite technologies, SpaceIL states that it is building the” smallest, smartest spacecraft to ever land on the moon.” The team is applying know how garnered from a defense related satellites to space exploration. The SpaceIL spacecraft is about the size of a dishwasher, only 38 inches high and 28 inches wide.
While the other Google Lunar XPrize teams developed large rovers to move the required 500 meters on the Moon’s surface, in order to conserve mass, SpaceIL used the idea of a space hop: to have the spacecraft land and then take off again with the fuel left in its propulsion system, and then perform another landing 500 meters away.
The company faces competition from more than 30 other teams.
SpaceIL also declares its goal to be to inspire the next generation of children in Israel and around the world to think differently about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The company says that it is committed to using the Google Lunar X Prize money to promote science and scientific education in Israel, to ensure that Israel will continue to live up to its reputation for excellence in these fields.
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Google describes its XPrize as an, “innovation engine. A facilitator of exponential change. A catalyst for the benefit of humanity.” The company says that it wants to find a more cost effective way to explore the 95% of the Moon’s surface that was not visited by astronauts.