Three engineers set themselves an ambitious goal – putting Israel on the map, or more specifically, on the moon
Eilon Tohar | Translation: Eden Sharon
Similar to most of the great revolutions of our decade, this one also sprouted in the social network. In the latter part of 2010, an electronics engineer named Yariv Bash published a post on Facebook calling for the establishment of an Israeli team to participate in the “Google Lunar X Prize” contest.
The international, inducement prize competition challenges private organizations to land a spacecraft on the moon, guaranteeing a prize of 20 million USD to the first one to meet the target.
“I’ve heard of the contest before, but I didn’t focus on the details”, says Kfir Damari, communication systems engineer by profession, who came across Bash’s post. “I told Yariv that if he’s serious, I’m with him”.
“Israeli Apollo Effect”
Although the contest is designated for private organizations and not countries, the members of the only Israeli team, “Space IL”, grasps their activity as a national mission.
“If Israel can become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon, it would put us in good stead in terms of security and technology”, explains Lieutenant Colonel (Res.) Dr. Eran privman, CEO of SpaceIL and a former Fighter pilot. “Beyond the contest, our vision is creating an ‘Israeli Apollo Effect’ and inspiring the young generation to study science and technology”.
“Apollo Effect” refers to the major increase of US students applying for science and technology studies in the 70s. The phenomenon is attributed to the “space race” between the US and the Soviet Union that ended with the success of “Apollo 11” mission and the landing of three first humans on the moon in July 16, 1969. As it seems, the historical landing has sparked the youngsters’ curiosity for exact sciences.
“We want to replicate this process here and prove to students that they can have big dreams and fulfill them even with limited commercial and technological resources. We believe that this project can encourage a lot of young people to explore this field”, emphasizes privman. “We don’t wait for the actual landing. During the last two years we’ve been building educational programs, moving from school to school and lecturing about the project”.
Only One Chance
According to plans, the spacecraft is to join a commercial or governmental launch as a “hitchhiker” on top of a satellite. Next year, the organization intends to conduct experiments in the US, where they can simulate landing conditions in the most realistic way.
“You basically have only one chance”, clarifies privman. “The whole process of landing on the moon cannot be examined in advance. You can analyze, simulate, but you can’t test the real thing: dealing with the moon’s gravity, vacuum situation and temperature and the environmental conditions related to the moon’s dusty surface. It is wonderful to succeed, but you must consider the possibly of a failure, in which years of hard work can go to waste”.