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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Israelis plan to occupy 14 million square miles of prime lunar real estate

From Ha'aretz:
If Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub succeed and send a robot to the moon, they'll donate their millions in prize money to promote science among Israel youth. Yesterday the trio announced their participation in the Google Lunar X Prize competition - an effort to send an unmanned vehicle to the moon and beam back high-quality photos and short films.

The competition seeks to encourage space scientists and engineers from around the world to develop cheap technologies for robotic space exploration. To win, a team needs to raise private funding; the first team to achieve the mission gets $13 million; second prize is $5 million. The other prizes total $5 million. So far 13 groups have registered for the competition; prizes can be won up to the end of 2015.

The X Prize gained publicity in 2004 when Burt Rutan, who led a group in cooperation with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, built and flew the first private manned spaceship.

The Israeli group's official declaration was issued at a space conference held by Tel Aviv University's Yuval Ne'eman workshop for science and technology. The group goes by the name SpaceIL and is registered in Israel as a nonprofit organization. It's the only Israeli team in the competition.

The three young men are not motivated by money; they view the competition as a national mission to develop Israel's ability to explore space.

The group has a website, http://www.spaceil.com, in Hebrew. "Our mission is to put the Israeli flag on the moon. During the next two years, we intend to build a small space robot that will make the long journey from the earth to the moon. The vision is to promote technological education in Israel," the website states.
Those Israelis, always trying to grab land.