SpaceIL, a privately owned Space Exploration team from Israel announced this week they were the first team to secure a launch contract to send their own private rover to the moon. The US$30 million contract is a prize for winning the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. The first private lunar mission in the world will be on launched from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket by Spaceflight Industries and is scheduled for the second half of 2017.The announcement was made during a press conference in Jerusalem attended by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE.
“We are proud to officially confirm receipt and verification of SpaceIL’s launch contract, positioning them as the first and only Google Lunar XPRIZE team to demonstrate this important achievement, thus far,” said Bob Weiss. “The magnitude of this achievement cannot be overstated, representing an unprecedented and monumental commitment for a privately-funded organization, and kicks off an exciting phase of the competition in which the other 15 teams now have until the end of 2016 to produce their own verified launch contracts. It gives all of us at XPRIZE and Google the great pride to say, ‘the new space race is on!’”
The Google Lunar XPRIZE is a unique competition which aims to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. According to them, “to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a privately funded team must successfully place an unmanned spacecraft on the moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth, before the mission deadline of December 31, 2017.” The first team to successfully complete this mission will receive the US$ 20 million grand prize, and the second team to successfully complete the mission will receive $5 million, with additional awards available for other scientific and technical achievements such as surviving a lunar night or visiting a landing site of the Apollo spacecraft.
“Only three countries have ‘soft-landed’ a rover on the surface of the moon: the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China. Now the notion of the small state of Israel being added to this exclusive list look more promising than ever,” said SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman. “ Last year we made significant strides toward landing on the moon, both in terms of project financing and in terms of the engineering design and now, we are thrilled to finally secure our launch agreement. This takes us one huge step closer to realize our vision of recreating an ‘Apollo effect’ in Israel: to inspire a new generation to pursue Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math (STEM).”
Source: Google Lunar XPRIZE