A team from Israel called SpaceIL has signed a contract to launch its robotic lunar lander toward the moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in the second half of 2017. SpaceIL is therefore a strong contender to win the $20 million top prize in the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP), contest organizers said.
The Hop instead of a Rover
While the other Google Lunar X Prize teams developed large rovers to move the required 500 meters on the Moon’s surface, in order to conserve mass, SpaceIL developed the idea of a space hop: to have the spacecraft land and then take off again with the fuel left in its propulsion system, and then perform another landing 500 meters away.
Efficiency and Multi functionality
For extra efficiency, SpaceIL believes in multifunctional use of every single part of the spacecraft. For example, the propulsion system will be used both for landing and for performing the 500 meter hop.
For the last eight years, teams from around the world have been racing to win a global competition to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon successfully. It’s called the Google Lunar XPRIZE, and it’s been going on in labs and universities from Brazil to Japan to Carnegie Mellon. With 16 remaining teams of scientists, explorers and adventurers hard at work designing and fundraising, the race is on to be the first privately-funded moon landing (and to take home a share of the $30 million prize purse that comes with it). This week, they all got a little bit closer. Team SpaceIL, a team of engineers based in Israel, has just managed to secure a “ticket to the moon”—in the form of an official, verified launch contract—for its spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The spacecraft will hitch a ride in a specially designed capsule on the Falcon 9; once separated from the launcher and released from the capsule, it will use navigation sensors to guide it to the lunar surface.
SOURCES – SpaceIL, Google, NBC News