Since the first moon landing, residents of this here planet Earth have been obsessed with returning to that silvery orb in the sky. Humans haven’t walked on the moon since 1972, although space agencies around the globe have been busy exploring other parts of the solar system. Now, a private nonprofit organization from Israel is gearing up to do what no other group of private citizens on Earth has done. The team secured a launch contract to send a rover into space, and they are hoping to land on the moon in the second half of 2017.
To be clear, SpaceIL’s mission won’t be carrying humans to the moon. What they aim to do, though, is partner with California’s Spaceflight Industries to launch a robotic rover vehicle on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher. The rocket will carry that craft – along with others aiming for other destinations – into space, where the SpaceIL capsule will separate for its lunar landing while the other crafts continue on their journey.
SpaceIL is the first competitor in the Google Lunar XPRIZE race to the moon, which promises $30 million to the first private organization to stick the landing. The contest has a deadline of December 31, 2017. In order to win the prize money, SpaceIL will have to land their craft on the moon, rover around 500 meters or more of its surface, and beam high-definition video and images back home. SpaceIL is so far backed largely by private donors, with $50 million raised so far for its cause.
In addition to being the first private moon mission, if it’s successful, this venture would also mark the first Israeli spacecraft to visit the moon. To date, only three countries can claim that achievement: the United States, Russia, and China. Adding Israel to that list would be quite an historic event.
Images via SpaceIL and NASA