The Shmooze

Israelis Shoot for the Moon

By Nathan Burstein

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A trio of Israelis is literally shooting for the moon, aiming to land a small spacecraft there by the end of next year.

Should they do so, Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub would make Israel just the third nation to manage the feat, after the United States and Russia. The threesome are planning the mission in pursuit of the Google Lunar X Prize, a $20 million award intended to inspire “mavericks” to “take new approaches and think creatively about difficult problems, resulting in truly innovative breakthroughs.”

Competing against 28 other teams, the Israelis describe their spacecraft as “the size of a Coca-Cola bottle,” and are planning to spend around $10 million on the effort, far less than their rivals. The three come from Israel’s technology and science sector, and are drawing on the talents of 50 compatriot colleagues, as well as backing from the country’s Weizmann Institute of Science. The ambition and precocity they’re applying to the planned moon launch sound characteristic - Forbes’ Web site notes that Damari, a communications-systems expert, started computer programming at just 6.

In addition to its scientific component, the trio also see the project in patriotic terms, saying it’ll “really [put] Israel on the map as a start-up nation by doing something only the superpowers have done, and reigniting Israeli interest in science.”

Good luck to them!


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