May 25, 2014

SpaceilIt took just one week for the SpaceIL team, the nonprofit set on landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the Moon, to achieve liftoff and raise 50,000 miles worth of fuel for its lunar destination.

Team SpaceIL is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo – saying the $240,000 target will cover the fuel costs for 240,000 miles to the moon.

“One dollar for each mile to the Moon,” the campaign reads.

The SpaceIL mission, of course, costs much more. But the bulk of the $36 million budget is being covered by private donations.

The crowdfunding campaign also aims to raise awareness and create an “Apollo effect,” to inspire the next Israeli generation about science, technology, engineering and math.

“Along the way, we are inspiring kids to engage with the wonders of science and technology, much like the Apollo missions did in the 1970s. We want to create an inspiring moment of blue and white history and spur a wave of space-related technology companies,” reads the Indiegogo story. “Let’s show the world that going into space is not limited to global superpowers with billion dollar budgets. Smaller teams of creative, innovative scientists and engineers can go into space. We’re doing it. For all of us. Join us!”

The SpaceIL team is the sole Israeli representative in the Google Lunar X Prize challenge – a competition to see who will be the first private, non-governmental team to build an unmanned spacecraft, land it on the Moon, move 500 meters across the lunar surface and send high-definition pictures and video back to Earth.

The prize is $20 million. If SpaceIL should win — and it is among the favorites of the 18 competitors left in the race — the team leaders say they will use the money to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers in Israel.

“But our mission is much bigger than just this competition. Our vision is to inspire the next generation in Israel and around the world to think differently about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). And to give communities a cool new way to connect with Israel. We’re committed to using our potential prize money to further our educational mission,” SpaceIL writes on the Indiegogo campaign site.

And though the fuel costs might seem high, the SpaceIL spacecraft is actually the smallest in the contest – one quarter the size of the other teams’ spacecrafts. It is about the size of an American dishwasher and weighs just 140 kilograms, and 80 percent of the spacecraft’s volume is for storing fuel.

Most of the early funders on Indiegogo chose to remain anonymous. But some left enthusiastic comments.

“Amazing Project, the moon WOW – it is incredible just to think about it, a small team of talented people are going to land a vehicle on the freaking moon – just glad to be a small part of it =),” wrote Dan Gorlitsky.

SpaceIL is offering funders of its crowdfunding campaign a chance to send a message to the Moon, a cool SpaceIL T-shirt, a photo from the Moon and a VIP seat in the control room on the day of the launch.

SpaceIL’s craft will look like this.
SpaceIL’s craft will look like this.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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