Google's Lunar Moon Contest may be dead, but that does not stop a company from reaching its destination. The Google competition sought the award of the first private company that could land a ship on the moon, and ended 2018 without a winner. One of the participants, the Israeli aerospace company SpaceIL, announced Monday that it is still working on this target and will attempt a landing in April.
SpaceIL boss Ido Ateby announced at a press conference on Monday his company's spacecraft schedule. According to Anteby, the spacecraft will launch SpaceIL's lander late Thursday night. Once in space, the lander will orbit the earth about six times to increase speed before heading for the moon a week later. The lander should land on the surface on April 1
SpaceIL has tasked SpaceX with Elon Musk to bring the lander into orbit. Called "Beresheet" after the first book of the Torah, the lander will travel in a Falcon 9 rocket along with an Indonesian communications satellite and an experimental Air Force minisatellite.
If SpaceIL succeeds, it will be the first private company in history to land a spacecraft on the moon. Beresheet is equipped with a handful of scientific instruments such as a magnetometer to measure the magnetic field of the moon, and a retro-reflector that allows scientists to bounce laser beams on Earth to measure the distance from Earth to the Moon.
These are not particularly advanced scientific instruments, but the scientific insights that Beresheet will make are secondary to reaching the lunar surface. Beresheet proves one point: It is possible for a private company or organization to build a lander and take it to the moon with a rocket built by another private company. Exploring the moon is no longer just the domain of a handful of wealthy governments. SpaceIL hopes to prove that anyone can land a spaceship on the moon. All scientific breakthroughs beyond that are just icing on the cake.