The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

IT WAS another small step in what Is­raeli sci­en­tists hope will be a gi­ant leap for the coun­try’s in­ter­ga­lac­tic in­ten­tions.

The SpaceIL pro­ject, which hopes to put a ro­bot on the moon, has signed a deal with a com­pany that will pro­vide a launcher for its small, un­manned space­craft.

It has also un­veiled the pro­to­type of its SpaceIL craft. Half the size of the ve­hi­cle that will be built, it fea­tures the phrase “Am Yis­roel Chai” — “the na­tion of Is­rael lives” — writ­ten on its side. Pre­vi­ously likened to a wash­ing ma­chine, the fi­nal de­sign is more rem­i­nis­cent of a huge elec­tronic crab.

The in­de­pen­dent non-profit group has been work­ing for four years to pre­pare a ves­sel to land on the moon. It hopes to win Google’s Lu­nar X com­pe­ti­tion by send­ing photos and videos back to Earth.

Sign­ing the con­tract with aerospace man­u­fac­turer SpaceX puts SpaceIL ahead of the other 15 teams from around the world com­pet­ing for the £18 mil­lion re­ward. It is the only team to have made such an agree­ment so far.

Is­rael’s Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin joined Science and Tech­nol­ogy Min­is­ter Ofir Aku­nis and lead­ing busi­ness fig­ures to mark the latest de­vel­op­ment.

Mr Aku­nis said: “If we suc­ceed this will be another suc­cess for Is­raeli entrepreneurship, Is­raeli science and the Is­raeli spirit.”

Bob Weiss, pres­i­dent of the Lu­nar X foun­da­tion, and com­pe­ti­tion chief Chanda Gon­za­les also at­tended the sign­ing cer­e­mony at Mr Rivlin’s res­i­dence in Jerusalem last week.

One of the Is­raeli engi­neers, Kfir Na­mari, said: “The space­craft we built is cheap and sim­ple. In the fu­ture there could be com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions, like quar­ry­ing in outer space or launch­ing more satel­lites for ap­pli­ca­tions be­yond GPS.

“And there are other things we’ll dis­cover on the moon, but we don’t know what they are yet.”

An artist’s im­pres­sion of the SpaceIL pro­to­type land­ing craft

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