SpaceIL, the nonprofit Israeli initiative whose spacecraft crashed on the moon two years ago, said on Sunday that it has secured US$70 million in funding to make a second attempt at a lunar landing, reports the AP.
The company said the new pledges mean that it has raised almost all of the US$100 million it estimates to be needed for the mission to meet its 2024 launch target.
The funding will come from South African-Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn, who bankrolled much of the first mission, French-Israeli billionaire Patrick Drahi and South African philanthropist Martin Moshal, co-founder of venture capital firm Entree Capital.
The first “Beresheet”, or “Genesis” spacecraft, built by SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, crashed into the moon moments before touchdown in April 2019, and so fell short in its attempt to become the first privately funded lunar landing.
According to the Davidson Institute, a branch of the Weizmann Institute of Science research university in Israel, the spacecraft suffered a string of technical malfunctions. They included damage to the star trackers, a type of navigation tool, failure of computer systems and engine failure.
The new mission, to be called Beresheet 2, was first announced in late 2020 and plans to set new space records with two landers, each weighing 60kg without fuel, making them the lightest ever moon landers.
An orbiter will act as controller of the landers, receiving and forwarding instructions and data.
The mission hopes to follow China in becoming only the second to successfully land on the far side of the moon.
The orbiter, known as the mothership, is set to remain in space for years, serving as a platform for educational science activities through a remote connection that allows students from around the world to participate in deep-space research.
“The Beresheet project is my life’s mission, so I decided to take it up again. I plan to do everything that is within my power to take Israel back to the moon, this time for a historic double landing,” said Kahn, who is chairman of SpaceIL.
SpaceIL is a non-profit organisation that strives to promote science and science education, according to its website.
With the new mission, Israel is positioned to be the seventh country to successfully land on the moon.
The US is the only country to have ever put people on the moon. However, Russia (the USSR), Japan, China, the European Space Agency, and India have all visited the moon with unmanned probes.
The 2019 mission made SpaceIL the first private entity in history to reach the moon.