Israeli team ‘SpaceIL’ moves closer to landing on the moon

SpaceIL, the Israeli team competing in a Google competition intended to foster entrepreneurship in space, is the first to sign a contract to send a spacecraft to the moon.

An Israeli team has moved one step closer towards winning a Google sponsorship in a competition to send a spacecraft to the moon. SpaceIL is the first of 16 competitors to win a contract to launch an unmanned spacecraft into orbit around the moon, one of the conditions for winning the $30 million grand prize.

The first stage of the competition is to sign a contract to launch a spacecraft. The Israeli team, SpaceIL, was the first to officially complete this task, signing a contract with American manufacturer SpaceX to launch its spacecraft into lunar orbit using the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This victory is also significant because, had no team signed a contract before December 2015, Google would have canceled the contest.

Google launched the Google Lunar XPRIZE in 2007 with the goal of encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in space, starting with finding a low-cost way to access the moon. According to the Official Google Blog, “The moon is not only our nearest neighbor in space, but also the gateway to the rest of the universe—providing exciting opportunities for discovery, and giving the rest of us a chance to engage more with science, technology and innovation.”

The first team to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon, have it travel 500 meters, and send back high-quality video and images back to Earth will win the competition. The SpaceIL team’s design, instead of using rovers, would land directly on the moon, launch itself upwards, then land 500 meters away.

The deadline to reach the moon is the end of 2017.