A dollar and a dream: SpaceIL crowdfunds Israel’s moonshot

A dollar and a dream: SpaceIL crowdfunds Israel’s moonshot

An Israeli group is using Indiegogo to raise money for its lunar lander, and raise awareness of the project’s importance

A model of SpaceIL's lunar landing craft prototype , which an Israeli group proposes to send to the moon (Photo credit: Courtesy)
A model of SpaceIL's lunar landing craft prototype , which an Israeli group proposes to send to the moon (Photo credit: Courtesy)

SpaceIL, an organization that is planning to send an Israeli-built spacecraft to the moon, has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise $240,000 to fuel its ship and encourage more students to study math and science, the skills Israel needs to become a “space power.” The campaign is also intended to raise awareness of SpaceIL’s goals and space travel in general. Those who fund the project will have an opportunity to be a part of it, even helping out in the control room on launch day.

Called “A Dollar a Mile,” the campaign aims to raise one dollar for every mile to the moon on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. Crowdfunding is a platform that allows anyone to contribute to worthy projects and tech ideas, and has been used by numerous start-ups seeking seed funding to get their idea off the ground. SpaceIL decided to use the platform to complete its current funding round. The money will be used, the group said, to pay for the fuel needed for its spacecraft to move about the moon. They added that anything beyond the $240,000 mark will be used to fund educational projects in Israeli schools that teach the math and science skills kids will need to work on future space missions.

SpaceIL’s mission, as the organization describes it, is to successfully build, launch into space and land on the moon a space capsule, making Israel the fourth country in the world to achieve this. The capsule will constitute Israel’s entry into Google’s LunarX contest, which promises to award $30 million to a team that can land an unmanned, robotic craft on the moon and carry out several missions, such as beaming high-definition video back to earth and exploring the surface of the moon by moving, or sending out a vehicle that will move, 500 meters along the moon’s surface.

SpaceIL began to develop the project two years ago, and expects to be ready by the LunarX launch deadline date of late 2015, with just about all plans set in place, said Daniel Saat, business development manager for SpaceIL. “We already have a prototype, and in the coming months we are going to start building the capsule itself,” he said.

The spacecraft, according to SpaceIL co-founder Yariv Bash, will weigh no more than 140 kilos, and be no bigger than a dishwasher. “And of that, most of the payload is fuel,” he said, with the rest consisting of lightweight electronics such as cameras and sensors. The majority of fuel will be required to enable the craft to make a soft landing on the moon and position it so that it can “hop” the 500 meters Google requires.

As with any crowdfunding campaign, donors who support the project get a reward. For $18, donors get to send a 140-character message, which will be recorded on a chip to be sent up with the craft. Sixty dollars gets you a T-shirt, while for $1,800 you get a framed photo of the spacecraft, signed by SpaceIL’s founders. Those who donate $100,000 can become launch directors, with a seat right in Mission Control, helping to guide Israel’s first moonshot to success. On its first day online, the campaign raised over $25,000. Fundraising will continue on Indiegogo through June 17

SpaceIL has raised over $20 million of the $36 million that will be needed to complete the project, and many large Israeli companies have donated time and technology to make sure the spacecraft can do what it needs to, Saat said. As such, the $240,000 the organization is shooting for on Indiegogo will not have a major impact on the project’s budget. The real purpose of the fundraising campaign is to spread the word on SpaceIL’s main goal — inspiring a generation of Israelis, said Bash.

“In the early 1960s, when President Kennedy announced the goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade, it inspired many young Americans to get into science and engineering, and arguably that explosion of technology education is the reason we have things like Internet and smartphones today,” Bash elaborated, as much of miniaturization and communication technology we use today was first developed for the US space program.

“In the US, that was called the Apollo effect,” said Bash. “We want to duplicate that here, with a SpaceIL effect. We want the next generation in Israel and around the world to think differently about science, engineering, technology and math, and when kids see the pictures of an Israeli lander on the moon, flying the Israeli flag and equipped with Israeli technology, we believe this will have a profound effect, influencing many kids to want to be a part of it. For us, that would be the greatest success of all.”

Check out a video promoting SpaceIL’s crowdfunding campaign:


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