Israel, U.S. team up in Google moon-lander race
JERUSALEM, Nov 27, 2012 (Xinhua via COMTEX) --
Odyssey Moon, a U.S. team that
had been competing against over two dozen other nations in a
Google-backed private initiative to land a mobile robot on the
moon, has decided to throw in the towel and join the Israeli team,
SpaceIL, local media reported Monday.
The 24 competitors, hailing from Britain, Spain, Italy and
other nations on several continents, are all vying for the
millions of U.S. dollars of prize for safely setting down an
unmanned craft on the lunar surface, remotely guiding it at least
500 meters, and transmitting live, high-resolution images of the
feat back to Earth.
"This team has a tremendously high probability of achieving one
of the greatest space challenges of our time, the landing of a
private, non-governmental lander on the moon. This will probably
be one of the largest media events of 2015," Odyssey Moon advisor
Michael Potter said in a statement.
SpaceIL chairman Yanki Margalit said the group "will keep
working to complete our mission to land the first Israeli
spaceship on the moon and inspire the next generation. Now, with
our colleagues from Odyssey Moon Space, we are closer to the moon
"It's a tough mission, but I believe that if everyone in Israel
joins hands, it's possible," co-founder and communication system
engineer Kfir Damari told Xinhua when the team was formed in
The Israel Space Agency, The Weitzmann Institute of Science,
Tel-Aviv University, Haifa's Technion-Israel Institute of
Technology, the Ramon Foundation and Israel aerospace industry
leaders, Elbit and Refael, are backing SpaceIL.
The mission is exactly the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that
Israel, a country largely devoid of natural resources, relies on
to make it a global leader in technological innovation.
The two others behind the initiative are Yonatan Winetraub, 25,
a system engineer at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and a
graduate of NASA's International Space University, and Yariv Bash,
31, a computer scientist and electronics engineer. The three first
met at an IAI conference in 2010.
Measuring just over 2 meters on a side at launch, the hexagonal
craft will extend three legs prior to landing that will raise the
vehicle to a bit over 1.5 meters height. SpaceIL's entry would be
the smallest spacecraft ever to be landed on the moon, according
to Israeli science news aggregator Newsgeek.
Describing the lander as a nano-satellite, the Damari said the
vessel weighs 100 kg -- 80 percent of which is fuel -- and is
outfitted with rocket boosters and a panoramic camera.
"It's somewhat like a cellular phone sitting on a large fuel
tank," Damari said. "All the technology that we require is
basically contained in a typical smartphone with its communication
and imaging features."
Launched in 2007, the Google Lunar X Prize aims to encourage
space enthusiasts and engineers worldwide to develop cheap
technologies for robotic space exploration.
According to Google, the competition has "effectively created
an active lunar economy of businesses not only selling goods to
other teams and independent companies, but also purchasing
themselves. Mergers and acquisitions are a sign of a blossoming
enterprise and these recent events represent the start of the
commercial landscape for lunar exploration."
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