An Israeli lunar lander destined for the moon in two years will hitch a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceIL, the company behind the project, announced Wednesday. The plan is all part of the Google Lunar X Prize competition, which offers $20 million to the first private company that can successfully land a robot on the moon.
SpaceIL, the only Israeli company in the competition, announced in Jerusalem that it will use a Falcon 9 rocket constructed by Elon Musk's SpaceX to send its lander into the lower Earth orbit some time in the second half of 2017. If successful, SpaceIL, which was created in 2010, would be the first company to land a craft on the surface of the moon after the U.S., Russian and Chinese governments.
“Now the notion of the small state of Israel being added to this exclusive list looks more promising than ever,” SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman said in a statement Wednesday. “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 realizing our vision of recreating an 'Apollo effect' in Israel: to inspire a new generation to pursue science, engineering, technology and math.”
The first team to achieve a soft landing will be awarded $20 million, with $5 million going to the second team. The rest of the prize will go to teams that meet certain technical challenges, such as exploring 100 meters of the moon.
Teams will also need to prove that at least 90 percent of their funding originated with private sources. Partnering with SpaceX catapults SpaceIL to the front-runner position in the race. The company, a nonprofit started by three engineers for the purpose of competing in the competition, will now use a rocket SpaceX has launched into space 17 times.