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    SpaceIL Сo-Founder: Israel's Second Mission to the Moon Only Three Years Away

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    Although Israel's first privately funded mission to the Moon crashed on the lunar surface in April, Kfir Damari, co-founder of SpaceIL, a startup that developed the spacecraft, isn't giving up. Working on his second lunar attempt, he is also toying with the idea of sending a mission to Mars.

    But, above all, he wants to make a difference and inspire Israeli kids to dream big.

    It took them 8 years and some $100 millions until Beresheet, Israel's first spaceship, took off in February hoping to reach the Moon.

    Although it never did, crashing just several kilometres from the Moon's surface, Israel still became the 7th country to reach the lunar orbit and 4th to attempt a soft landing.

    But Kfir Damari, one of the founders of SpaceIL, an Israeli startup that developed the spacecraft, says he never viewed the endeavour as a failure.

    Make a Difference

    "For us it was a success story because we wanted to make a difference and we did", he said over the phone adding that the initial goal was to educate kids and inspire a future generation of scientists.
    Beresheet is loaded onto its launcher, Falcon-9 before its launch into space Thursday night
    © Photo : SPACEX COURTESY OF SPACEIL AND IAI
    Beresheet is loaded onto its launcher, Falcon-9 before its launch into space Thursday night

    When the dust on Beresheet settled, he moved on to another project, still aiming high - Beresheet 2, and this time around, he hopes, it will be different.

    "The second attempt will take us about three years and will be significantly cheaper than the first project - costing roughly $80 millions. Firstly, because we already have the experience, the know-how and the design, and, secondly because we learnt from past mistakes", he said, referring to a series of technical failures that eventually led to the crash.

    Money Talks

    Yet, Damari is aware that - just as it was with the previous attempt - it won't be easy, primarily because of budget restraints.

    Unlike other countries that funded their space exploration missions from the state's budget, Israel's Beresheet counted on the generosity of rich donors, with the Israeli government only giving $2.5 million to the venture.

    Although after the failed landing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the state would help the next project financially, pouring some $7.5 million, doubts run high as to whether he will be able to keep his promise, especially given the fact that Israel is struggling to form a government without which it will be next to impossible to approve the country's budget.

    Israel allocates some $116 million to the Ministry of Science, with only $17 million going to the Israel Space Agency - a body that's supposed to advance Israel's space projects. But with Israel concentrating more on military space, with little attention given to civilian space initiatives, projects like Beresheet will need to rely on foreign investors if they ever want to take off.

    "[In comparison to previous years,] Israel is now investing more money into this industry after it realised space projects can boost the country's economy but I remember that back in 2011 we were close to despair thinking the project would never succeed, simply because we didnt have the budget. We didnt even have the money to pay next month's salaries", recalls Damari.
    WTF Did I capture passing the Moon?
    Youtube / Don't Stop Motion
    WTF Did I capture passing the Moon?

    But problems don't stop at that. "Every day there is a challenge. One day it is money, another day there are issues with staffing or suppliers", said Damari recalling that budget restrains also meant that the startup could not employ a suficient number of full-time staffers relying primarily on volunteers.

    "Luckily for SpaceIL we had thousands of those, but looking for them was tough. Also, as time went by, the world changed and that presented a challenge too", he said, adding that obstacles often mean that the initial timetables are broken and the launch of the project is postponed.

    Unbreakable Spirit

    Yet, hardships don't break his spirit. Apart from working on Beresheet 2, the startup is also working on another ambitious project, a Mars exploration mission. Although it still requires development and serious money - much more than what Beresheet 2 might need - Damari believes the project is still on the table.

    But above all, he still wants to make a difference. "Despite the fact that Beresheet crashed, hundreds of kids wrote to us saying we inspired them to become engineers and scientists. So all I want to do is to fulfill the potential of these kids and show them that if they can dream it, they can do it", he summed up.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Tags:
    lunar program, Beresheet, Beresheet, Moon, Space, Israel
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