The Start-Up Nation is now one step closer to catapulting to the moon.
SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization, is one of five finalists in the Lunar XPRIZE, a $30 million Google-backed competition to land and operate a robotic spacecraft on the surface of the moon, the XPrize Foundation said on Tuesday.
Contenders have until December 31 to launch their spacecraft, said the foundation, which is running the lunar prize and eight other technology stimulus contests.
Competitors must also complete activities on the lunar surface, such as having their vehicles travel 500 meters and broadcast high-definition video.
Since the contest was announced in 2007 interest in the contest has been high, with 33 teams originally signing up to compete for the $20m. first prize.
Second place is worth $5m., and bonus money is available for accomplishing extra tasks, such as visiting an Apollo landing site or finding water on the moon.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has produced a documentary series about competition.
SpaceIL expects the team’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to make its first lunar journey by the end of the competition.
If successful, it will be the first time an Israeli spacecraft lands on the moon.
Along with SpaceIL, the four other finalists are: the Florida- based Moon Express; Synergy Moon (which represents 15 countries); India’s Team Indus; and Japan’s Hakuto.
“We’re thrilled to have five contenders that are working from all over the world on this one mission,” XPrize senior director Chanda Gonzales- Mowrer said in an email.
SpaceIL recently got a significant boost in funding courtesy of businessman Sam Sagol, who now joins Amdocs founder, Morris Khan, the Adelson Family Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, Bezeq and the Israel Space Agency as a significant supporter of the initiative.
Of Sagol’s generosity, Khan said: “I am proud to have Sam and Tova Sagol join me, Sheldon and Dr. Miri Adelson and others in supporting this innovative, history-making project. Sami’s devotion to brain research – to humans living longer and better lives – is inspiring. The Sagols have displayed a remarkable commitment to philanthropy, to projects that showcase what Israel can do and how Israeli ingenuity is changing the world for the better.”
Dr. Eran Privman, SpaceIL’s CEO, boasted about the team’s move to the next phase of the competition. “We have waited for this moment for a long time,” he said. “Being announced as finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition officially confirms what we always knew: Israel is at the forefront of global technology.
SpaceIL, emerging as a competition finalist, enhances our team’s ability to ‘shoot for the moon.’” This unique Israeli achievement has also resonated with Israeli artists, including renowned singer and songwriter Aviv Geffen, who praised the ambitious project. For Geffen, whose hit song “Or Yare’ach” (Moonlight) was released 20 years ago, SpaceIL has resonated personally.
“Since SpaceIL is shooting for the moon, I found it interesting as a person who looked up to the moon at night from the day I was born,” he said.
Reuters contributed to this report