6 min read

Private Lunar Lander – Reflections on SpaceIL Mission

By Peter H. Diamandis on Apr 14, 2019

In September 2007, I was joined on stage by Larry Page, Buzz Aldrin, and the deputy administrator of NASA to announce a $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE.

The challenge we set was for a private team to build and launch a vehicle that could fly and land on the Moon, send back photos and videos, rove half a kilometer, and send back more photos and videos.

Here is a throwback video to the announcement:

 

In late February 2019, twelve years later, SpaceIL launched its lunar-bound Beresheet spacecraft on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9.

Beresheet brought the XPRIZE logo with it into space, and snapped these two selfies, one during its translunar trajectory, and one on its way to the Moon’s surface: 

Image: (Right) A Beresheet selfie taken on its six-week journey from the Earth to the Moon. (Left) A Beresheet selfie taken a few kilometers above the Moon, just moments before the vehicle’s unplanned kinetic disassembly.

I traveled to Israel this past week to join the SpaceIL team in Beresheet mission control for this historic attempt. 

This blog is my reflection on the electrifying mission of the first private lunar spacecraft.

Why Did We Launch This Prize, and Why Did Google Fund It?

We created the Google Lunar XPRIZE to achieve two primary goals:

  • To inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and innovators to take moonshots.
  • To spur affordable access to the Moon and give space entrepreneurs a legitimate platform to develop long-term business models around lunar transportation.

Mission Accomplished

While the SpaceIL mission didn’t achieve a soft landing on the Lunar Surface, there is much to be proud of and to celebrate:

  • The Hero’s Journey of the SpaceIL Team: Imagine three young entrepreneurs who passionately and naively set out to land a mission on the Moon. No funding and no hardware experience. They would go on to raise $100 million, and to build the Beresheet spacecraft with a team of fewer than 50 engineers.
  • A Visionary Funder: We also celebrate the vision and passion of Morris Kahn, a South African-born, Israeli billionaire who was so moved by the passion of the SpaceIL Founders that he committed nearly $50 million to fund the hardware development and launch.
  • The Impact on Children & Adults: Having spent the last week in Israel, I know that team SpaceIL and the Beresheet spacecraft were known by every schoolchild and on the lips of everyone in conversation. Everywhere I’ve traveled in Israel over the past week, people young and old congratulated the XPRIZE Foundation over and over again for inspiring this mission.
  • Making History: The Beresheet spacecraft made history more than once on its exciting journey, including: (1) Being the first private company to orbit the Moon and touch the Moon’s surface; (2) Making Israel the seventh nation (behind the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, the European Space Agency, and India) to orbit the Moon, the fourth country to attempt a soft landing on the Moon, and the fourth country to touch the Moon’s surface.

Giving the $1M Moonshoot Award

MOONSHOTS ARE HARD. 

Taking moonshots is by definition difficult, and the outcome of SpaceIL’s mission goes to show that these world-changing prize competitions are far from easy to win. 

At the same time, space in particular is extremely hard… for now.

Ultimately, Anousheh Ansari (XPRIZE CEO) and I decided to give the team a $1 million 'Moonshot Award,' despite their “kinetic disassembly,” as an encouragement for them to continue the pursuit of their mission, and to launch Beresheet 2.0.

See the video announcement of our $1 Million Moonshot Award to SpaceIL!

And on the heels of my Tweet that announced the $1 million Moonshot award, the world responded with overwhelming support… 

If at first you don’t succeed… try, try again.

Space exploration and failure are intimately linked: nearly every nation and company to reach for the stars has first failed spectacularly at their direct objective.

In the 1950s, between the U.S. and Russia, it took 10 attempts before the first manmade probe (the Russian Luna 2) reached the Moon’s surface.

In recent years, SpaceX failed three times before they successfully launched their Falcon 1 rocket on their fourth attempt.

Yesterday I personally spoke to Morris Kahn, and was thrilled to hear his announcement on nationwide TV. 

“... In light of all of the support that I’ve got, from all over the world, and the wonderful messages of support and encouragement and excitement, I’ve decided that we are going to actually establish Beresheet Shtaim [Beresheet 2].

We are going to actually [build] a new spacecraft, we’re going to put it on the moon, and we’re going to complete the mission…” -- Morris Kahn

The team’s courageous persistence to the point of success is a powerful testament that will continue to inspire millions of children and innovators in Israel and across the globe.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, SpaceIL and Beresheet propelled the private space industry into a new era.

I am grateful to the SpaceIL team for their dedication and courage in pursuing the goal of the Lunar XPRIZE and connecting millions of children across the world to science, technology, engineering, and space.

I am proud that the XPRIZE Foundation is supporting Beresheet 2.0 with a $1 million award and can’t wait to see Beresheet 2.0 land on the Moon.

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Topics: Space space exploration XPRIZE Private Space SpaceX spaceflight moonshot Moonshots moon exponential technology SpaceIL
3 min read

GOOD LUCK! Private Lunar Lander -- SpaceIL XPRIZE Team

By Peter H. Diamandis on Apr 11, 2019

Today is a great day for innovators, entrepreneurs and dreamers.

Today, April 11th, the Israeli SpaceIL spacecraft calledBeresheet (which means ‘Genesis’) will attempt to land on the Moon’s surface in the Sea of Serenity around 9:45pm(Israel Time)… 11:45am PT / 2:45pm ET.

Only the U.S., Soviet Union and China have ever accomplished this feat.  SpaceIL will be the first private lander ever! 

Remarkably, the SpaceIL team built their lander with less than 50 engineers/entrepreneurs.  They are backed privately (principally) by Morris Kahn.

The mission has its roots in the $30MM Google Lunar XPRIZE which was announced in September 2007, attracting 26 teams from 7 nations to pursue this bold mission.  

When Google partnered with the XPRIZE Foundation, the primary purpose was to help inspire moonshots and to encourage the next generation of engineers and innovators to look towards the heavens, dream and do.

To Mr. Kahn, your philanthropy and support of SpaceIL is truly admirable.  To the SpaceIL team (Founders: Yariv Bash, Yonatan Winetraub, Kfir Damari), what you have built with such as small engineering team is unprecedented and will no doubt chart the path towards a new generation of low-cost scientific lunar landers.   Thank you all for the millions of children your efforts will inspire.

Today, while I’m at Mission Control in Tel Aviv (at IAI HQ), I, along with the world, will be watching and hoping for Beresheet’s successful landing!  

To watch the SpaceIL Landing go here:  http://www.visit.spaceil.com/

For more info on XPRIZE go here: www.xprize.org

MORE ON SPACEIL:

SpaceIL is a non-profit organization established in 2011 aiming to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the Moon. The organization was founded by three young engineers: Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub who answered the international challenge presented by Google Lunar XPRIZE: to build, launch and land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon. SpaceIL was the only Israeli representative. In October 2015, SpaceIL reached a dramatic project milestone by becoming the first team to announce a signed launch contract, that symbolizes an actual "ticket to the Moon". In January 2017, SpaceIL became one of the competition’s five finalists. The competition officially ended with no winners in March 31, 2018, after Google ended their sponsorship. The XPRIZE Foundation has continued with a $1M “Moonshot” Award.


SpaceIL is actively working to create an Israeli "Apollo Effect.” SpaceIL is committed to inspiring the next generation in Israel and around the world to choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

© PHD Ventures, 800 Corporate Pointe, Culver City, California, 90230, United States
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Topics: Space space exploration XPRIZE Private Space spaceflight Moonshots moon SpaceIL
12 min read

Abundance Insider: March 30th, 2019

By Peter H. Diamandis on Mar 30, 2019

In this week's Abundance Insider: Record-breaking CRISPR engineering, apple-harvesting robots, and an advanced prosthetics hand.

Cheers,
Peter, Marissa, Kelley, Greg, Bri, Jarom, Joseph, Derek, Jason, Claire and Max

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P.P.S. Want to learn more about exponential technologies and hone in on your MTP/ Moonshot? Abundance Digital includes 100+ hours of course work and video archives for entrepreneurs, like you. Keep up to date on exponential news and get feedback on your boldest ideas from an experienced, supportive community. Click here to learn more and sign up.

Toyota's Planned Moon Rover Has 18x The Range Of A Tesla Model S

What it is: Japanese automaker Toyota and JAXA, the Japanese space agency, recently announced a collaboration to further develop lunar mobility technology. The partnership commits more resources to accelerate and develop a pressurized lunar rover powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Using Toyota’s fuel cell technology, the vehicle will have an anticipated cruising range of 6,214 miles, nearly equivalent to the entire circumference of the Moon and more than double the width of the United States. Using the ‘live off the land’ principle of in-situ resource utilization, the hydrogen fuel cells allow the rover to readily refuel from rich hydrogen and water deposits on the Moon, without the need to bring added fuel for the rocket launch.

Why it's important: This partnership demonstrates the massive terrestrial impact of space exploration. From the invention of CMOS imaging sensors to freeze-dried food, space continues to catalyze hyper-impactful innovation for use on Earth and beyond. By developing its fuel cell technology for the demanding environment of space, Toyota will also inevitably demonetize and democratize these innovations for its global consumer base.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Max Goldberg / Written by Max Goldberg 

Doctors Wired A Prosthetic Hand Directly Into A Woman’s Nerves

What it is: For the first time ever, doctors in Sweden have successfully wired a sentient prosthetic hand directly into a patient’s nerves. With an osseo-neuromuscular implant, the recipient can now control the prosthetic’s fingers with her mind and even perceive tactile sensations. To achieve this extraordinary feat, surgeons placed titanium implants in the patient’s forearm bones and connected an array of sixteen electrodes to her nerves and muscles. This enables both extraction of signals to control the prosthetic hand and a corresponding sense of touch. Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and biotech firm Integrum AB additionally built the prosthetic hand with unparalleled dexterity, now pictured tying shoelaces and even typing on a computer.

Why it's important: Coordinated by European prosthetics research program DeTOP, this breakthrough has remarkable implications. Up until now, prosthetic hands have been stifled by limited dexterity and sensory feedback, requiring users to rely on vision for everyday use. By implanting electrodes directly into a user’s nerves, however, researchers can now electrically stimulate them similar to the way in which a biological hand conveys information. Such technology not only dramatically enhances dexterity but could also drive development of robotic devices that seamlessly interface with our bodies. No longer partially connected tools, prosthetic limbs are now integrating directly into our biological architecture, revolutionizing the way we communicate with technology.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Gaz Alazraki / Written by Claire Adair 

Photos From NASA's Opportunity And Curiosity Rovers Reveal 15 Martian Objects That Resemble Mushrooms

What it is: As published in the Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science, images from NASA’s rovers Curiosity and Opportunity reveal evidence of life, specifically algae, lichens and mushrooms growing and emerging from Martian soil. According to the authors, the mushroomlike structures such as stems and stalks -- spotted by the hundreds -- aren’t something created by known geologic forces on Earth. While evidence isn’t confirmation, when coupled with additional of evidence of seasonal fluctuations in methane on Mars, this suggests there may be existing life on Mars.

Why it's important: Better data, enabled by increasingly powerful sensing technology, is giving us an unparalleled glimpse into environmental conditions around the universe. This new knowledge recalibrates researchers' understanding of the fundamentals for life, and will no doubt spur additional exploration and data-gathering activities. What long-held assumptions about the universe will we confirm or challenge in the decades ahead?  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Claire Adair / Written by Jason Goodwin 

Abundant’s Apple Harvesting Robots Get Their First Commercial Deployment

What it is: This week, Abundant Robotics announced its first customer, and the first commercial use case of its apple-harvesting robots. To commercialize its technology, Abundant overcame a handful of complex technical challenges simultaneously, including image recognition of harvestable apples, picking the fruit without damaging it, and real-time autonomous navigation of different orchards. Over the three years since Abundant Robotics’ launch, partnering with orchards around the world to acquire real-world data during product development and testing was critical to accelerating the robots’ commercial viability.

Why it's important: From lab-grown meat to genetically engineered crops, digital agriculture is transforming the global food supply chain. This news from Abundant Robotics further validates the wide-ranging applications of converging exponential technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence and big data to help feed the planet.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Max Goldberg / Written by Max Goldberg 

Genome Engineers Made More Than 13,000 CRISPR Edits In A Single Cell

What it is: Setting a groundbreaking record for large-scale genome editing, researchers at Harvard have just published a method that enables genetic alterations at thousands of loci per cell. Having developed a set of dead-Cas9 base editor (dBEs) variants, the researchers can now circumvent cutting open the DNA double helix at multiple locations, a traditional cause of cell death when too many edits are made at one. By instead using base editors to replace individual genetic letters, the scientists have successfully made 13,200 genetic alterations to a single cell without destroying it in the process.

Why it's important: Given that many genetic elements are repetitive and capable of copying themselves, large-scale, one-stop genome editing could one day eliminate all copies of a retrovirus for safe and universal organ transplants. Gene technologist George Church has even envisioned the creation of human organ and tissue supplies with revised genomes that are immune to all viruses. According to the Harvard team, this ‘recoding’ process would involve about 9,811 precise genetic modifications. With the newfound ability to target all copies of a given genetic element, imagine ‘recoding’ supplies of your own cells, now rendered universal and safe for future transplantation.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Claire Adair 

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Topics: Abundance Insider Space Robotics space exploration healthcare biotech Genetics mars moon prosthetics