$1 million prize for Israeli Beresheet's touchdown on moon

Beresheet touchdown set to make history as the first privately-funded craft to land on the moon.

Sara Rubenstein ,

Beresheet launches
Beresheet launches

The XPrize Foundation announced on Thursday that it will grant a $1 million “Moonshot” award to the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL if its lander Beresheet successfully touches down on the moon's surface.

The touchdown of Beresheet is set to make history on April 11 as the first privately funded craft to land on the moon as well as the first Israeli one. Although the United States, Russia and China have reached the moon, their missions were funded and carried out by government organizations.

"SpaceIL's mission represents the democratization of space exploration," said Peter Diamandis, the founder of XPrize, when announcing the "Moonshot Award" on Thursday.

"We are optimistic about seeing this first domino fall, setting off a chain reaction of increasingly affordable and repeatable commercial missions to the moon and beyond," Diamandis added.

Beresheet was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on February 21.

SpaceIL initially entered the $20 million Google Lunar XPrize competition, which ended last year without a winner when none of the teams were able to launch their missions before the March 2018 deadline.

However, SpaceIL decided to continue its quest anyway, partnering with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Israel's space agency, as well as Israel's Ministry of Science and Technology.

Israeli entrepreneur Morris Kahn, originally from South Africa and the founder of Israeli hi-tech company Amdocs, was SpaceIL's largest funder. Other contributors include the Adelson Family Foundation, the Science and Technology Ministry, the ISA, Weizmann and other private citizens.

Landing on the moon doesn't come cheap. SpaceIL told The Verge that the moon mission's price tag was $90 million of which only $2 million was granted by the Israeli government.