The moon
The moonIsrael news photo: Morguefile

Israel intends to become the third country in the world to land on the moon -- sending the world's smallest spaceship in history to Earth's natural satellite.

Team SpaceIL will use the Jewish State's cutting-edge nano satellite technologies to build a small robotic spacecraft which it hopes to land on the moon, operate across the lunar surface and transmit video, images and data back to Earth -- all by the end of next year.

The group, which is carrying out the project as part of an international competition, consists of more than 100 people, according to the Team SpaceIL website, including some of Israel's top space experts, and is one of 26 teams racing to land on the moon through the Google Lunar X Challenge.

The international competition involves a race to land a vehicle on the moon, drive it and transmit live video back to Earth. The first to accomplish the task successfully wins $20 million, which SpaceIL plans to use to "catalyze our most important natural resource: the hearts and minds of our youth and partner programs that will promote science and education."

Much work is needed, the group says."Today, space and astronomy hold a marginal stature in the Israeli educational landscape. Space IL is committed to revolutionizing this situation by dedicating all the proceeds from the prize to nurture and promote education in these fields."

Budget for the project: "only" $10 million, which according to the team, is only one-tenth of the other teams' budgets, "becaus we are utilizing existing Israeli nanotechnology."

The endeavor is being collectively supported by Israel's government, leading academic institutions, the private sector and "countless other Israelis," says the team. "We are close to becoming the first team with a NASA-approved spaceship design."