SpaceIL win $1m for privately-funded space mission

The first privately-funded spacecraft to orbit the Moon and attempt to land on its surface is to be awarded a $1m Moonshot Award by XPRIZE.

Beresheet headed for the Moon

SpaceIL’s ill-fated Beresheet robotic lander failed to soft-land during its final descent to the Moon yesterday, April 11, 2019. As it prepared for landing, Beresheet experienced a main engine failure and lost communication with mission control in Tel Aviv, suggesting a crash landing into the surface.

Beresheet, the Hebrew name for the book of Genesis meaning “In the beginning”, was launched on 21 February atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Nammo Westcott in Buckinghamshire developed and built Beresheet’s LEROS 2b rocket engine.

“SpaceIL’s mission not only touched the Moon, it touched the lives and hearts of an entire world that was watching,” said Peter H. Diamandis, executive chairman and founder of XPRIZE. “The legacy SpaceIL will have on the future of the space industry is significant. This team’s ability to build a lunar lander for $100m and less than 50 engineers is remarkable, a leap forward towards affordable and accessible space exploration.”

SpaceIL was founded in Israel in 2011 by Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub to compete in the $30m Google Lunar XPRIZE. In 2015, SpaceIL became the first team to announce a launch contract.

“As a testament to the team’s passion and persistence, we are presenting this $1 Million Moonshot Award to the SpaceIL team at our annual Visioneering Summit in October 2019, with the hope that they will use these funds as seed money towards their education outreach or Beresheet 2.0, a second attempt to fulfil the mission,” said Anousheh Ansari, chief executive officer of XPRIZE. “We are so proud and humbled to have served as the catalyst for this mission, not just to further private space exploration, but to increase access to education, career opportunities, and role models in this field, something that is very much in line with the values of the XPRIZE Foundation.”

If Beresheet had landed successfully, it would have made Israel the fourth country to have achieved a soft landing on the moon after the US, the former Soviet Union and China.