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Capitalism in space: SpaceIL, the Israeli finalist in the Google Lunar X-Prize competition, must raise $20 million in the next two weeks or face shutdown, even as they are about to complete testing on their rover.
This is the second of five finalists facing shutdown due to an inability to raise enough investment funds. With a third depending on a rocket that might not be operational by the March 31, 2018 deadline, the prize looks increasingly like no one will win it.
This does not mean that none of the companies will succeed, only that at least one or two might fly after the deadline. If they do, they will still demonstrate that they have the ability to launch a scientific planetary mission for pennies (compared to what the government has been spending). At that point I would expect them to become very viable and profitable spacecraft companies. Thus, it would actually be a good investment for some rich person to put their money behind these projects. In the case of SpaceIL, however, the problem might be that it is a non-profit. It appears it is not designed to be a profitable company down the road, but to merely serve propaganda purposes now.
Anchored in the “can-do”, innovative approach and creative energy that has characterized the Jewish State since its founding, SpaceIL aims to replicate the “Apollo Effect” in Israel, inspire and motivate the next generation of Israelis to pursue a future in STEM professions. Since its establishment as a nonprofit, SpaceIL has pledged to donate the $20 million in prize money, if it wins, to the promotion of science and scientific education in Israel, and to thus contribute to Israel’s economy and security.
Since its founding, many have contributed to the project. The main donor is the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson Foundation. Additional supporters include Morris Kahn, Sami Sagol, Lynn Schusterman and Steven Grand, among others. The project formed exceptional collaborations between the private sector, the academia and governmental companies. Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI), the Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel-Aviv University, Israel Space Agency, Israeli Ministry of Science, Bezeq, dozens of engineers and hundreds of volunteers are among SpaceIL’s partners. Over the years, SpaceIL volunteers have reached half a million children and youths throughout the country.
All of this has wonderfully good intentions, but I think they would be better served to focus on making money. A successful and profitable space company will do far more to inspire Israel’s children than mere propaganda.