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ISRAEL AMONG 5 FINALISTS FOR GOOGLE PRIZE TO LAND SPACECRAFT ON THE MOON
BYNOA AMOUYAL
 25 JANUARY 2017 11:02
”We have waited for this moment for a long time,” says SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman.

SpaceIL. (photo credit:COURTESY SPACEIL)
The startup nation is now one step to closer to catapulting to the moon.

SpaceIL, a non-profit organization, is one of the top five finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE – a $30 million Google-backed competition to land and operate a robotic spacecraft on the surface of the moon, the XPrize Foundation said on Tuesday.

Contenders now have until Dec. 31 for their spacecraft to be launched, said the foundation, which is running the Google Lunar XPrize and eight other technology stimulus contests.

Previously, competitors needed to complete activities on the lunar surface, such as having their vehicles travel 1,640 feet (500 meters) and broadcast high-definition video, by the end of the year.

Since the contest was announced in 2007, interest in the Google Lunar XPrize has been high, with 33 teams originally signing up to compete for the $20 million first prize.

Second place is worth $5 million and bonus money is available for accomplishing extra tasks, such as visiting an Apollo landing site or finding water on the moon.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet has produced a documentary series about Lunar XPrize competition.

For SpaceIL, by the end of the competition, the team’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is expected make its first moon journey.

If successful, this will be the first time an Israeli spacecraft will land on the moon.

Along with SpaceIL, the other four finalists include the Florida-based Moon Express, Synergy Moon (which represents 15 different countries), India’s Team Indus and Japan’s Hakuto.

“We’re thrilled to have five contenders that are working from all over the world on this one mission,” XPrize Senior Director Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer said in an email.

SpaceIL recently got a significant monetary boost in funding courtesy of businessman Sam Sagol.

Sagol joins Amdocs founder, Morris Khan, the Adelson Family Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, Bezeq and the Israel Space Agency as significant supporters of this initiative.

Of Sagol’s generosity, Khan said, “I am proud to have Sam and Tova Sagol join me. Sheldon and Dr. Miri Adelson and others, in supporting this innovative, history-making project. Sami’s devotion to brain research – to humans living longer and better lives – is inspiring.

The Sagols have displayed a remarkable commitment to philanthropy, to projects that showcase what Israel can do, and how Israeli ingenuity is changing the world for the better,” he said in a statement.

Dr. Eran Privman, SpaceIL’s CEO, boasted about the team’s move to the next phase of the competition, “We have waited for this moment for a long time. Being announced as finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition officially confirms what we always knew: Israel is at the forefront of global technology. SpaceIL, emerging as a competition finalist, enhances our team’s ability to ‘shoot for the Moon.’” This unique Israeli achievement has also resonated with Israeli artists with renowned singer and songwriter Aviv Geffen praising the ambitious project. For Gefen, whose hit song Or Yare’ach (Moonglight) was released 20 years ago, SpaceIL has resonated with him personally.

“Obviously, since SpaceIL is shooting for the Moon, I found it interesting, as a person who looked up to the Moon at night from the day I was born,” he said.

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