The Lunar Lunar Lunar Contest from Google may be dead, but that does not stop a company from reaching the goal anyway. The Google contest sought to reward the first private company capable of landing a plane on the moon. It ended in 2018 without a winner. One of the participants, the Israeli space company SpaceIL, announced Monday that it was still working on this goal and that it would attempt a landing in April.
SpaceIL CEO Ido Ateby announced on Monday his company's space plane schedule at a press conference. According to Anteby, the spacecraft carrying the SpaceIL landing gear will be launched Thursday night. Once in space, the lander will orbit about six times around the Earth to gain speed before heading to the moon a week later. The lander is expected to land on the surface on April 11.
SpaceIL has entrusted Elon Musk's SpaceX with the transport of the landing gear in orbit. The lander, named Beresheet after the first book of the Torah, will board a Falcon 9 rocket with an Indonesian communications satellite and an experimental mini-satellite of the Air Force.
If SpaceIL succeeds, it will become the first private company in history to land on the moon. Beresheet is equipped with a handful of scientific instruments, such as a magnetometer to measure the magnetic field of the moon, as well as a retroreflector allowing Earth scientists to repel laser beams to measure the distance between Earth and the moon.
These scientific instruments are not particularly advanced, but the scientific discoveries that Beresheet will make are secondary to the achievement of the lunar surface. Beresheet proves a point: it is possible for a company or private organization to build a lander and reach it on the moon using a rocket built by another private company. The exploration of the moon is no longer solely the preserve of a handful of rich governments; SpaceIL hopes to prove that everyone can put a spaceship on the moon. All scientific breakthroughs beyond that are just icing on the cake.