ANALYSING this year’s attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon, Kfir Damari – who with Yariv Bash and Yonatan Winetraub co-founded SpaceIL, Israel’s privately owned space agency – takes a “glass half full” attitude.
Beresheet means “beginning” and as Damari and his team learned – after hatching SpaceIL in a Holon bar in 2010 to bid for Google’s Lunar XPRIZE – all beginnings are hard. Beresheet was the first privately operated moon mission, but crashed in the final stages of its April journey.
However, a data disk is almost certainly intact among the wreckage. Containing 50,000 books, 100 songs, an image of Israel’s flag and the text of the Torah, it lies in wait for some future lunar forager.
And SpaceIL has more to be upbeat about, argued Damari. The agency is already focused on Beresheet 2, which will deploy Israel’s first lunar orbiting satellite. The mission will cost $US80 million, to which the Israeli government has committed $7 million. And Damari is excited about NASA’s revived interest in lunar exploration.
Speaking to The AJN on the eve of his visit to Australia for the United Israel Appeal, the conversation turns to Apollo 11 and humanity’s first footsteps on the moon 50 years ago. “I can tell it was something that excited you,” Damari said, “and that’s the kind of excitement we’re hoping to bring to our young people in Israel today. We want them to dream about space travel.
“Besides building our spacecraft, we work to inspire more than a million kids in Israel and around the world to make sure there will be the scientists and engineers to build future spacecraft,” he said.
“We’ve had hundreds of volunteers who went into classrooms and met those kids and told them it’s rocket science but it’s also something they can understand. And even if they don’t study science and technology, we want to make sure that they’ll dream big, think big.”