“That is why, in addition to building Beresheet, we established an educational department assisted by hundreds of volunteers through the years. We have met more than one million children and told them our story.”
Of course, conversations surrounding the privately-funded mission quickly transcended the classroom, and it became a national and international talking point during Beresheet’s seven-week, 6.5 million km. journey to the Moon.
The true impact of SpaceIL, Damari said, will only be witnessed in the future as today’s students become tomorrow’s scientists. He also believes the failure to soft-land Beresheet could even enhance its ability to educate and inspire.
Engineers lost contact with the spacecraft only minutes before it was due to complete the historic lunar landing on April 11 – a feat previously completed only by the United States, Russia (then the USSR) and China, backed by giant sums far exceeding Beresheet’s modest NIS 350 million ($99m.) budget.
“The fact that we didn’t soft-land led kids to have deep conversations with their educators and parents about the meaning of success. You need to experience a lot of failures and you need have a lot of resilience in the process,” said Damari.
“The hard-landing actually enabled lots of kids to really understand the challenges in science, and it’s their job to take those challenges upon themselves.”
While SpaceIL and its lead donor, Morris Kahn, quickly stated their ambition to launch a second spacecraft to the Moon within two years, the organization announced last month that reattempting the same mission would not present a sufficiently great challenge.
If some enthusiasts might have been disappointed by the announcement, Damari emphasized that the decision is about broadening their horizons even further.
“It’s possible that we will return to the Moon, but we won’t give a green light to the same project with the same design,” Damari said.
“We decided that we want to look for different options – maybe to go to the Moon and come back or to take something special with us. We’re also thinking about other places, including the ability to go beyond the Moon.”
Whatever mission is ultimately chosen by SpaceIL, the organization is not taking its foot off the gas when it comes to keeping the “Beresheet Effect” rolling.
Educational work is continuing, Damari said, both in terms of science and engineering, and also in terms of encouraging Israel’s children and teenagers to dream big and pull out all the stops to make those dreams come true.
“We’re working with the Education Ministry to get the story of Beresheet into school textbooks and make sure everybody will be consuming it,” said Damari.
“We are also planning to build an exhibition to showcase the components of the spacecraft so that everybody can see how it was built, and present the story behind it to everyone, both today and in the future.”