American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has pledged $16.4 million (almost £10 million) to fund the Israeli SpaceIL mission to the moon.
With only 20 full-time staff and 250 volunteers, the SpaceIL project is one of the most ambitious of its kind. The project organisers aim to land a spacecraft on the moon at a cost of just £22 million – a tiny amount compared to most space programmes.
SpaceIL’s fundraising and development head Daniel Saat, told the JC last week that £13 million had already been raised for the programme. The new lump-sum donation from the “Dr Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Family Foundation” now means that he will have the remaining £10 million needed to push ahead with the mission.
Mr Adelson said: “As an entrepreneur, nothing is as thrilling as supporting a group of people who have been told that their dreams cannot be realized.”
SpaceIL is taking part in the Google Lunar X competition which was launched in 2007 and is the only team running its project through philanthropic donations rather than corporate sponsorship.
Yariv Bash, one of the co-founders of SpaceIL says that once the craft makes it to the lunar surface, he hopes it will also carry out a number of groundbreaking experiments including the first attempt to grow plants outside the earth.