Reuven Rivlin (C) at a ceremony with a probe that will be sent to the moon, February 17th, 2019.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Fly me to the moon and
Let me play among those stars
Let me see what spring is like on
Jupiter and Mars
This is the beginning of a love song recorded by Frank Sinatra well over half a century ago. For Israel, it may become more than a song and a dream in just a few days' time.
Dreamers donors and partners in Israel's effort to send a spacecraft to the moon met with President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence on Sunday morning to present him with a copy of a minute time capsule disc that if all goes according to plan will be deposited on the moon together with an Israeli flag by an unmanned spacecraft that is being launched this week from aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Known as Bereshit, the project is a joint endeavor of SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, but would in all likelihood never have gotten off the ground without the financial input of people such as billionaire philanthropist and SpaceIL President Morris Kahn, who told Rivlin that if successful, Israel will be only the fourth nation in the world to land a spacecraft on the moon after Russia, USA, and China.
The first moon landing was the Soviet Union's Luna 2 mission in September, 1959. Almost ten years later, in July, 1969, America's Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the moon with space pioneers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
In January this year, China succeeded in landing a robot spacecraft on the far side of the moon.
Now, it's Israel's turn.
Characterizing the project as "an example of Israeli ingenuity," a beaming Kahn said that while Russia, America and China have invested billions of dollars in their efforts to land on the moon, Israel has invested considerably less – a total of around $100 million. Kahn neglected to say that he had contributed %40 million of that amount, but paid tribute to fellow philanthropist Sami Sagol, who was also present and has likewise been generous in his financial support of the project. Other key donors have included Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Lyn Shusterman, Harvey and Gloria Kaylie, the Parasol Foundation Trust, Steven and Nancy Grant, and Sylvan Adams.
Kahn said that the Israeli spacecraft will spend approximately four months in space once it lands on the moon.
The disc that he presented to Rivlin was "a symbolic gift" he said, containing Holocaust testimony, inscriptions from the people of Israel, a copy of the Old Testament and songs of Israel.
If successful, the project will take Israel industry to yet another level and Israel Aircraft Industries into space said Kahn, adding that it will give Israelis a sense of pride. "This is our gift to the people of Israel." Rivlin was also presented with the navy and white windbreaker with the insignia of Space IL and IAI as well as the national flag.
"We are already in space" said IAI CEO Nimrod Shefer, adding that it was only natural for IAI to partner with Space IL. "This is an example of what it happening in Israel and what can take us to greater heights."
"When we started this almost a decade ago, we didn't imagine where it would take us '' said Yonatan Winetraub, a co-founder of Space IL . "The disc contains not only all that Morris said, but also the dreams of all those involved. "
Rivlin said that these are very special days for the State of Israel. When he was a boy, he recalled, Israel produced its first bubble gum, Bazooka, which came in a wrapper that contained a message in a similar manner to Chinese fortune cookies. The message was "by the time you're 21, we'll be on the moon."
It took a little longer than that, and Rivlin admitted that he did not know "what we'll do there." But taking his cue from Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team, which in 1977 won the World Cup defeating the Soviet Union's CSKA, Rivlin quoted star player Tal Brody who joyfully pronounced "we're on the map and we'll stay on the map."
Using that analogy, Rivlin said that he was hopeful that in a relatively shorty time, Israelis will be able to say 'we're on the moon and we'll stay on the moon."
He also noted that both Kahn and Sagol are men of vision, whose visions have always been realized.
The State of Israel not only has a global reputation for innovation he said, but IAI has partners all over the world. "So many people see Israel as a strategic partner in everything to do with space."
Rivlin said he was delighted that the project was not only a technological accomplishment but also an educational inspiration which is bound to influence more students to opt for technological studies.
It's not always easy to get philanthropists who support the weaker sectors of society to contribute to a dream, Rivlin commented, but he was vey glad that they had contributed to something that will do so much to boost Israel's image.
Unlike Russia, America and China, Israel's ascent to the moon is privately funded, with minimal input from the state.
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