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An Israeli spacecraft is gearing up for a 2019 Moon mission (planetary.org)
152 points by sohkamyung 71 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

Just to clear something up, a small detail is slightly misrepresented in the fine article. NASA asked SpaceIL to include a laser retroreflector for use for future lunar navigation. Every gram counts on a craft like this, and SpaceIL is providing NASA a service by bringing the LRA down with it. The article frames the relationship as NASA doing SpaceIL a favor by giving them the LRA, which is a paperweight today and will continue to be so until suborbital lunar navigation becomes commonplace. I.e., not in the mission timeframe.

Note that NASA is in fact being very generous towards SpaceIL, by providing time on the DSN and other assets. I'm just clearing up the bit about the LRA.

Retroreflectors are immediately useful for improving our understanding of gravity:


Over thirty billion dollars per year in aid with no strings attached. They owe us, it's the least they can do!

I can see how without detailed information you could frame it like that. But in reality, US gets world-class military research and development and intelligence from the region, and in return dumps shiny military hardware that mostly just collects dust in hangars, just so american military industrial complex doesn't have to cut jobs in some congressional districts.

I mean, it's nice that we have F-35s now, but with the support we give to US in the region, I don't think we actually get a fair deal out of this relationship.

Israel defends itself, though, unlike Japan, S. Korea, or Germany. The tens of thousands of troops in those countries are not counted as foreign aid. But having them there, their guns and equipment, food,etc, is a lot more than direct aid to Israel.

Love to see the XPrize teams pushing on; also Astrobotic [1] and Moon Express [2].

[1] https://www.astrobotic.com/

[2] http://www.moonexpress.com/

Amazing that a private entity in a tiny country can scrape up the resources to go to the freaking moon on mission of inspiration. Can't wait to see them land it.

This is a very cool project. But, it's not fully funded by Israel and uses a US rocket etc. IMO, the bigger deal is it's a privately funded moon mission.

PS: Israel has a GDP of 350.9 billion USD, US had a GDP of 542 billion in 1960 which works out to: $4,622 billion or around 13x Israel which just shows how much richer the world has become.

Are you adjusting for inflation?

Considering the latter half of his sentence he clearly did, Israel might be small but it has a GDP greater that of the smaller developed EU countries like Denmark or Ireland, in fact it's not that far off from the likes of Norway and while Israel has been developing some LPG fields they don't have nearly as much petroleum export as Norway.

Israel might be small but it has the money and more importantly the knowhow to run a proper space program and develop a real launcher rather than the 3/4 stage "we promise it's not an ICBM" they use to launch their military satellites, if their situation would've been different and they could cut down on defence spending they likely could've been on the same level as India, keep in mind that India only spends about $1bln. a year on theirs, Israel spends nearly $20bln on defence.

I'd argue that Israel's current GDP is because of its high defense spending - rather than in spite of it.

Israeli companies use knowledge / leadership skills gained from working for IDF.

It’s not about the historical reasons to why it became this high but I don’t think that if the situation would change to the point at which Israel only needs to spend $10 bln a year on defense instead of 20 their economy would suffer.

I also think that the defense industry is a red herring to some extent at least as far as it being the secret sauce behind their high technology industry.

I would argue that the large immigration from Russia after the collapse of the USSR helped them more than their compulsory military service, as the joke goes when GLONASS goes down Russia dials +972.

Per capita Ireland, Norway and Denmark all have a signifcantly higher GDP than Israel. Ireland's is through the roof nowadays but that might be due to it being a tax haven. GDP has been gaining a lot of controversy lately but we're going off topi.

Per capita GDP doesn’t mean much for national programs, India has a very low per capita GDP compared to the west so does China.

Per capita Israel still has higher GDP than Portugal or Poland not to mention Russia.

With a GDP of $350 billion an an advanced aerospace industry they can easily have a bigger space program than they do now its only a question of if they need it and would want to pay for it.

Israel has a basic space launch vehicle and has experience in developing and manufacturing satellites and launching them if they could or wanted to spend a few billion dollars a year they could easily be on the same footing as India today if not further.

So maybe GDP is somewhat irrelevant to this discussion, Russia is a good example - they don't have that high a GDP but they are very advanced in missile and space programs. While GDP may have a weak correlation, it's more about the quality of science, engineering etc.

GDP is a good baseline but it’s not all and be all.

Russia has a space program because historically they did had a high GDP they were the 2nd upto the fall of the Soviet Union, GDP per capita was still pretty bad but not as bad as it is today, the per capita GDP of the US was only about double that of the USSR in the 1980’s but it’s 6 time that of Russia today.

The reason why many people in Russia romanticize the days of the USSR today isn’t just Kermlin propaganda in 1989 their GDP per capita was ~$8700 today it’s only $2000 higher than what it was before the wall fell, adjusted for infalation they are considerably poorer today than they were in the past at the same time period the US went form $18,000 to $60,000 per capita.

OK I think I managed to find a good example for this: South Korea and Spain have comparable GDP's and population sizes (about 1.5T/60 million to 1.3T/56 million), yet South Korea is WAAAY more advanced technologically than Spain.

Yes that’s because they invested in high technology while Spain mainly banked in their legacy production and service sector, that said if South Korea and Spain would embark on a space program now I’m not sure if one has any advantage over the other both have pretty compareble aerospace sectors.

Israel already has a space program and an orbital launch platform it’s just very small because of lack of funding which according to some reports is between 50 and 200M a year that’s not enough to do anything substantial.

With 1-2 bln a year their program would likely be very different.

Just on the topic of energy, interestingly enough, Israel has an estimated 300 billion barrels of shale oil, or approximately the same reserves as Saudi Arabia. They haven't been able to get it out because of its proximity to the water table and environmental concerns prevent drilling. But if they can figure out this problem, they might emerge as a major oil exporter.

It’s tonnes not barrels and you can’t extract anywhere near that amount:


Their LPG fields might be quite large but at this point they likely would run the clock on shale oil before we move off carbon based fuels.

We might still power jets in 2050 with oil (and even then biofuel makes more sense) but not cars and likely not homes.

No, it's barrels[1] (reference quotes other sources that estimate 250bbl).

To argue that we'll "move off carbon based fuels" before the shale oil can be exploited is a baseless prediction. People have been forecasting peak oil and the death of fossil fuels for decades now, and have been wrong time and again.

If oil indeed is to be replaced (and I am not opposed at all to clean energy) then what will replace it, when, and how? What happens to the billion existing cars in the world? The trillions of dollars of infrastructure?

For some reason, there's a lot of fact-free wishful thinking surrounding the whole topic of energy. In fact, if the Israelis find a way to tap the shale oil deposits without damaging the aquifer in the next 10-15 years, they will emerge as a major oil producer.

1. https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Israel-May-Hold-The-Wo...

Wikipedia cites the Israeli geological survey http://www.ceri-mines.org/documents/27symposium/presentation...

300> bln tonnes of shale with only a fraction of it practically extractable.

> • Out of the enormous geological reserves only a fraction (2-4%) may be defined as mineable, possibly around 1-2 X 10^9 tons.

10^9 tons is about 6.5 million barrels of oil if they have perfect extraction.

There is a good reason why Israel hasn’t been exploiting shale oil on a large scale it’s not feasible nor economical at this point, and there is a huge question mark if it would ever be.

If you invest well in education, create quality human resources, and then give them resources they can do anything.

In fact its mostly small countries who do big things. Greece under Alexander the great.

And more recently England. It was like a small Island and pretty much ruled the whole world.

Or better yet, live in persecution that makes it harder to succeed with manual agricultural labour but easier through crafts and trade, build your culture and religion about literacy and education, and remain a tight ethno-religious group with social pressure (both from within and outside) to inter-marry.

Also lots and lots and lots of subsidies by the US

Research their relations with the US.

What does this mean? Israel also has very good relations with India and China.

The mission, which now has a reported price tag of $95 million, is bankrolled by billionaire investors that include Israeli entrepreneur Morris Kahn, and U.S. business magnate Sheldon Adelson.

In other words, one of it’s biggest funder is the same guys that funded Trump’s campaign [0]. I’m glad he is also using his casino money on some good work.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jun/08/sheldon-adel...

Ah, too bad this mission to the moon isn't political, otherwise you might have found a connection!

@dang can you remove this off-topic comment?

No info in the article as per my eye on the probable date of launch.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18406653 and marked it off-topic.

Why celebrate anything? Nobody's hands are clean. Do you leave similar comments on stories about US companies?

I can't speak about the United States, but whenever Saudi Arabia is brought up, Hacker News response is to drown out all other conversation, by referring to Saudi blood money.

Likewise, any time China is mentioned, a dozen people will chime in about freedom of speech, the Uyghurs, the great firewall, espionage, etc.

Mentioning that Israel is a brutal apartheid state is not any more off-topic. Mind you, the gp post goes a bit past mentioning that.

It's insane that we must respond to these allegations in 2018. See the ADL's writeup of this [1] which does a effective, factual takedown of this argument.

Arguing this isn't for HN. Attempting to call out a state using misleading labels isn't a sign of intellectual honesty. Its a state level version of an ad hominem, and demonstrates that the accuser has lost an argument badly.

Whether or not you like/dislike Israel is not the point under discussion. Whether or not you believe things you've heard about them from others doesn't matter.

What matters is that this little state, under constant and tremendous threat over its 70+ years of existence from terrorists, their fellow travelers, NGOs, and states alike, can still launch a cost effective privately funded moon mission.

[1] https://www.adl.org/resources/fact-sheets/response-to-common...

The ADL article does no such thing.

While true that the Israeli oppression of its Arab and Muslim minorities within its internationally recognised borders is not exactly the same as South African apartheid, the analogy credibly holds. The oppression of the Arab population under its occupation and the consistent collective punishment visited upon those captive populations outside its internationally recognized borders is a whole other kettle of fish. That Israel is an ethno-nationalist state that has many laws that privilege people of a given religion over another is fact [1]. Whether the level of state discrimination at this point constitutes apartheid is arguable. That one can make the argument is not antisemitic.

You can disagree about the extent, but it's stifling free speech to lump it under antisemitism and say you cannot bring it up. So credible, that a variety of Israeli leaders have warned against the very thing.[2]

And it is relevant. If you believe that South Africa during apartheid should be called out for its apartheid, then it IS relevant to bring it up. If the murder of Khashoggi by the Saudis tars their economic achievements, why shouldn't this?

Funnily enough, South Africa under apartheid was a plucky little country that withstood much indigenous aggression and had a world leading economy.

[1] https://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/7771

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_and_the_apartheid_analo...

I think this is not the appropriate place for such a discussion, but c'mon, the ADL is not exactly unbiased on the topic.

Also I don't think the term "apartheid state" is to be interpreted literally. Of course Israel doesn't have a South African style apartheid system. But it still treats Palestinians as second-class citizens.

Speaking of ad-hominems, what you compress as "terrorists and fellow travelers" unpacks to people like Stephen Hawking, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Erich Fried, and others... vs. Netanyahu, a Trump sponsor, and others... hmm. Adjectives like "cost effective privately funded" aren't sufficiently inspiring to tip the scales IMO.

The enemy of my enemy isn't my friend though; Israel is indeed under constant attack, and Palestine often used more a tool to try and damage Israel rather than help Palestinians, and while Palestinians don't really need enemies with friends such as Hamas etc. ("fun" fact, suicide bombings against civilians were first done by Palestinians)... criticism of Israel must never imply excusing any of that, and the other way around.

Many people seem to have problems with that, because if the "other side" does bad things and is therefore bad, they can't be bad, too. Which is really problematic when they factually are, and waste a lot of time, and deform many generations, because they consider the correct answer out of bounds. These things will not change. When you forgot Leibowitz for good, he will not cease to be correct, you will be doomed, that is all.

To make it so that one would have to be blind and pretend two wrongs make a right to be a friend, or otherwise be considered an enemy, a "fellow traveler with terrorists", is also not exactly intellectually honest, and only moves flyweights. As Schopenhauer said, ignorance starts to become really shameful when it is combined with wealth.

That it took a slob like Trump to recognize Jerusalem, something not even Bush did, or that the sponsor of this moon expedition also sponsored Trump, that's not "fellow travellership", at all. That's just coincidence, a broken clock being right twice a day, nothing to do with the spirit of it.

I didn't ask about everyone else, I asked about you.

Nice to see someone concede that capitalism is the key to economic success (at least for Israel).

wtf people are looking on the moon, beside some pride?

Strange mission purpose: all you have to do to get motivated for a STEM career is to open yad2 and check out Tel Aviv rent rates.

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