Slow boat to the Moon
In about twelve hours as of this writing, a tiny spacecraft will land on the moon. The Moon!
I am talking about Beresheet (Genesis), the Israeli attempt to land a washing-machine doppelgänger on the moon, on the cheap, and in full view of the world (click here to watch their explainer).
For the life of me I cannot figure out what possible business interest there could be on such a venture, other than being an amazing public relations stunt. And I guess that worked, since I (along with so many others) am writing about it.
So, what's interesting about the stunt?
It's cheap. OK, so $100M ain't exactly pocket change for you and I, but as far as space flight goes, it's like building a new house with the loose change you found in your sofa. Also, the rest of the items are a function of keeping it cheap.
It's slow. The tin can has been on it's way for well over a month. Essentially it's been using Earth's gravity well to propel itself farther and farther away until it's route intersected with the moon's.
It's (mostly) automated. Needless to say, they don't have humans up there. Of course they don't. Do you have any idea how much water and air they'd need to pack for a month's journey in space? Also, very few trained astronauts fit inside a small dishwasher.
It's an amazing feat of lateral thinking. I will bet you pounds to pennies that the nice folks at SpaceX weren't really thinking that someone would use their service to launch a mission to the moon. I mean, they (SpaceX) are in the business of launching satellites right? But someone did. That was, I think, pretty creative.
Israel? Really? There are very few space-going nations on Earth. The U.S. of course, and a whole bunch of Europeans working together. China recently joined in too. But those are large countries (or continents in the case of Europe) with commensurate budgets. But Israel, really? My neighbors down the road? Well, damn. Kudos my friends!