Trying to put the Israeli flag on the moon

Short Clip: SpaceIL founder says his team plans to bring science back to younger generations by winning the Google Lunar X Competition.

August 11, 2011 13:38
3 minute read.

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This week, 20 Questions hosts Kfir Damari, the COO and one of the founders of team SpaceIL. The non-profit organization is representing Israel in the Google Lunar X Competition, in which $20 million will be awarded to the first team that lands an unmanned vehicle on the moon, moves it 500 meters, and transmits videos and images back to earth. An additional $10 million will be awarded for achieving other objectives once on the moon.

Damari says that the team hopes to use the competition to promote excitement for science among the younger generation.

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“When people think about landing an unmanned vehicle on the moon, it really excites them,” says Damari. “We want to use this excitement to show that science can be interesting, exciting, and cool.” Damari says that he hopes to impact the next generation in the same way Neil Armstrong did when he took the first step on the moon.

While Google is donating the $20 million prize, each team must find its own sponsors to help them build and launch the vehicle, 90 percent of which must be private funding. SpaceIL has already raised $1 million, but is looking to raise another million to cover the next few months of work.

The vehicle that SpaceIL will be sending to the moon is “like a cellular phone sitting on a large fuel tank," Damari says. He goes on to explain that all the technology the team needs is inside one smartphone.

SpaceIL will have to pay a third party to launch their spaceship into space, but they are then responsible for getting their vehicle to the moon after takeoff. If SpaceIL succeeds in landing first, Israel will be one of the first three countries to place their flag on the moon.

Damari says that they will launch their satellite in the direction of the sea, the opposite direction of earth’s orbit. To prevent satellites from falling into enemy hands, all of Israel’s satellites travel in the opposite direction of other satellites. Because it requires a lot more energy to launch satellites in the opposite direction of earth’s orbit, Israel has learned to build smaller and lighter satellites.

“This is what enabled us to build the smallest spaceship that was ever made,” says Damari about the technology.

When asked what they'll do with the money if they win, Kfir says, “When we win, we will use the money to promote science and technology.”

Besides competing in the competition, SpaceIL works to promote science and technology around the world. The organization is using this competition as a platform for its mission.

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