Israeli lander FOUND ON MOON (in 2017)
Non-profit org first to sign Google XPrize rocket mission contract
Literally hopping mad
The need to move 500 metres over the surface for the prize has been addressed by the lander "hopping." The plan is a single hop of enough ground over 500m to qualify, but not enough to imperil the landing gear. If at the engine mission there is enough fuel and confidence in the gear, more hops might be attempted.
Something the project is doing outside of the scope of the competition is an experiment on the Moon's magnetic field. In conjunction with the Weizmann Institute, SpaceIL is carrying a magnetometer designed by UCLA.
The Falcon 9 can only reach an elliptical Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit, which is about 40,000km above the earth. The Moon is about 380,000km away, so the SpaceIL project will need to make its own way for the majority of the distance, albeit having had the heavy lifting done by SpaceX.
Once there, it will have to land softly and then fulfill the tasks set out by the XPRIZE project:
1. Make a soft landing (without crashing) of an unmanned spacecraft on the surface of the Moon.
2. Travel 500 meters on, above, or below the surface of the Moon.
3. Send high definition video and pictures back to Earth, including a portrait image of the spaceship.
While SpaceIL is the first company to have signed a launch contract, there are 16 teams competing for the prize, including Astrobiotic and Moon Express from the US, Team Italia, the International teams of Synergy Moon, Euroluna, and Stellar, Independence-X from Malaysia, Hakuto from Japan, Part-Time Scientists from Germany, Team Puli from Hungary, SpaceMETA from Brazil, Plan B from Canada, Angelicvm from Chile, and Team Indus from India.
SpaceIL's Privman told The Reg that he only considered seven of the competitors to be real rivals. They're more focused on getting SpaceIL to the Moon, even if it's not first, than on watching rivals. They want to promote Israeli science and encourage kids to want to be astronauts.
The combination with other launches has a huge effect on the mission. They will be dropped off in low earth orbit, and it's only then that SpaceIL has control of the navigation, boosting to a high elliptical orbit.
Signing the launch agreement was made possible due to the completion of an additional fundraising round led by the two major contributors of SpaceIL: Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Family Foundation and Morris Kahn's Kahn Foundation. The organization has raised more than $40m and is confident in raising the remaining $10m it needs before launch. None of the $30m prize money will go back to sponsors – instead it will be invested in Israeli educational programs.
The SpaceIL organization has 20 full-time staff and 250 volunteers. It plays heavily on the educational benefit of the program and has already engaged schools in the project, in much the same way as the Bloodhound 1,000mph car has in the UK. The aim is to persuade the Israeli youth that it's much cooler to be a space scientist than a reality TV star. Although perhaps the organization could have phrased this better than by saying that it "wanted to make an impact." ®