SpaceIL chairman and co-founder to light Independence Day torch
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SpaceIL chairman and co-founder to light Independence Day torch

Morris Kahn and Kfir Damari will receive honor during ceremony on May 8 for promoting tech education and encouraging innovation

The last shot Beresheet sent of landing before crashing onto the moon's surface, April 11, 2019. (YouTube screenshot)
The last shot Beresheet sent of landing before crashing onto the moon's surface, April 11, 2019. (YouTube screenshot)

SpaceIL chairman Morris Kahn and one of the company’s co-founders, Kfir Damari, will light a torch at Israel’s 71st Independence Day ceremony on May 8, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev announced Monday.

“SpaceIL has been working for eight years to promote scientific and technological education in Israel and to encourage Israeli innovation,” the committee responsible for choosing the honorees noted in a statement.

This year’s Independence Day theme is “The Israeli Spirit.”

Following the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet’s failure to land safely on the moon last week, Kahn on Saturday announced he was launching project Beresheet 2, effective immediately, adding: “We started something and we need to finish it. We’ll put our flag on the moon.”

Morris Kahn speaks on Channel 12, April 13, 2019 (screenshot)

The small spacecraft, the world’s first privately funded moon lander, crashed into the lunar surface Thursday night during an attempted landing, apparently due to a technical glitch that caused its main engine to stop mid-landing.

Kahn provided a large chunk of the $100 million (NIS 370 million) required to build and launch the spacecraft — a novel approach that came at a fraction of the cost of previous, state-funded efforts to land on the moon.

Damari, along with Yariv Bash and Yonatan Winetraub, hatched the plan to send an unmanned spacecraft to the moon while they were in a bar in the city of Holon one evening.

The spacecraft was budgeted to cost a fraction of the cost of vehicles launched to the moon by major powers US, Russia and China in the past. It was a joint venture between private companies SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, funded almost entirely by private donations from well-known Jewish philanthropists.

SpaceIL co-founder Kfir Damari during the unveiling of the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on February 17, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

SpaceIL’s founders said a major goal of the project was space education and encouraging children to enter science fields.

On Sunday, Regev announced that Iris Yifrach, Bat-Galim Shaer, and Racheli Fraenkel, the mothers of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014, will also light a torch together at the ceremony.

Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gil-ad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, were kidnapped by Hamas-linked terrorists on the night of June 12, 2014, at a hitchhiking post south of Jerusalem and killed soon afterwards. Their bodies were discovered June 30, in Halhul, near Hebron in the West Bank, after an 18-day search.

The kidnapping was later seen as a turning point in Operation Protective Edge, the Israel-Gaza conflict of summer 2014. The three mothers became unofficial spokespeople for unity during the conflict and afterwards.

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