Space is something that speaks to everyone, according to Yaniv Bash, CEO of SpaceIL, an Israeli organization competing in the Google Lunar Prize competition to go to the moon. Bash, who spoke to about 200 people at Israel Expo 2013, explained the difficulties of the endeavor and the motivating factors behind it.
Those in the audience old enough to remember the early days of the U.S. space program could identify with what Bash described as “the Apollo effect.” Because young people were intrigued by the idea of space at the time of the Apollo program in the U.S., they became scientists and engineers. Bash wants to create the same effect. He wants young Israelis as well as Jewish children in the Diaspora to be excited by SpaceIL, and he is speaking all over the world to raise both funds and excitement. “I want to meet a young engineer 10 years from now who was inspired by SpaceIL,” he said.
SpaceIL is one of four teams worldwide leading the race to become the next entity to go to the moon. There is no direct commercial benefit, but the non-profit organization is competing with commercial entities. The organization has many academic and commercial partners and has raised $23 million of the $30 million needed. SpaceIL started in 2011, designed and educated in 2012, plans to construct and fundraise in 2013 and 2014 and expects to land on the moon in 2015.
To prove Bash’s point about the Apollo effect, Joe Robinson, who was involved in the Apollo program, told the audience about how the U.S. was focused on the missile gap and nuclear war during the 1950s and 1960s. It seemed that the Soviet Union was pulling ahead in terms of space technology, and the U.S. was trying to catch up. “The focus was to get the country moving,” he said. “As a result, we learned about the physiology of the human body, lightweight aeronautics, computers, international guidance systems, freeze-dried foods, water purification systems and many other things.”
According to Robinson, “The entire civilization has changed, and so has the country. The space program energized the country in a new direction that has continued to this day.”
In a dynamic startup nation like Israel, it’s not hard to imagine a whole country being energized by the prospect of being the third country in the world to land on the moon – and it’s not hard to believe that Israel will succeed.