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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The third nation on the Moon is going to be... Israel?

If all goes well, sometime in December 2012, three young Israelis will land a tiny spacecraft on the moon, which will explore the lunar surface, and transmitted live video back to earth, thereby scooping up a $20 million prize (the Google Lunar X Prize). And they're doing it in their spare time at a cost of less than $10 million.
The three engineers – Yariv Bash (electronics and computers), Kfir Damari (communication systems), and Yonatan Winetraub (satellite systems) all have high-level day jobs in the Israeli science and technology world, and also both teach and study. They all had heard of the Google Lunar X Prize independently, before being introduced by mutual friends who, as Yonatan puts it “thought we were all crazy enough to do it, so we should meet each other.”

By the end of November 2010 they had sketched together a novel plan to win the prize and submitted it to organizers. Only on December 21 (10 days before the December 31 deadline) did they set about raising the $50,000 entry fee. “Like good Israelis we left it to the last minute,” Yonatan laughs.

Since then they’ve recruited around 50 volunteers from across the Israeli science and technology community and have gained support from academic institutions, including the prestigious Weizmann Institute of Science (founded in 1933 by Chaim Weizmann, himself a successful chemist who went on to become Israel’s first president). They’re operating as a non-profit (“we’re looking for stakeholders,” says Project Coordinator Ronna Rubinstein), and any winnings will be invested in promoting science among Israeli youth.

The X Prize’s organizers say their competition is intended to attract “mavericks” who “take new approaches and think creatively about difficult problems, resulting in truly innovative breakthroughs.” They see the moon as a largely untapped resource, and believe that “inexpensive, regular access to the Moon is a critical stepping stone for further exploration.”

Maverick and creative thinkers the Israeli trio appear to be: According to the X Prize organizers, the 29 competing teams will spend between $15 million and $100 million on the project, with the earliest launch not scheduled until 2013. The Israelis aim to spend less than that (around $10 million) and to launch before 2013.

“One of reasons that we’re able to do this,” Kfir (who started programming aged six and wrote his first computer virus aged 11) explains, “is because of our different perspective. Most space missions aim to last many years and so have to be built in a certain way. Ours doesn’t have to last as long. This saves cost.”
Read the whole thing. They have an English web site here.

Here's Google's video about the prize.

Let's go to the videotape.


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At 9:51 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

You can follow here, if you're on LinkedIn:

Google Lunar X PRIZE



and here's their company website that looks like Greek to me :)


At 9:53 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

And here they are on Facebook:


At 10:00 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

If there is actually going to be civilian space travel, we will need a Club Med Moon as a goal, with amenities similar to the Tel Aviv beach scene. And we get to go by buying lottery tickets, which give us a chance in a drawing to actually get to go, plus a lifetime membership in an earth-based Club Med Moon facebook group, where we could follow everything - training, travel, photos, online classes and presentations... it would be fabulous.


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