Israeli Moonshot: The Video Game


As a public/private consortium in Israel prepares to send a robot to the moon next year, tech-savvy supporters can win $25,000 for developing the best interactive simulations of the mission.

The Schusterman Family Foundation is putting up the prize money together with Games For Change to draw attention to SpaceIL, Israel’s team in the Google Lunar XPrize Challenge. The latter contest offers $30 million in rewards for the first team to land a spacecraft on the moon, maneuver it and send back images, by the end of 2015.

The Game Design Challenge, targeting people ages 15 to 25, was announced last month and entries are due by March 14. Developers must envision an experience that encourages people to learn about space exploration and captures “comprehensive real-world data that will inform the mission of SpaceIL.” The game does not need to be completed by the deadline, only conceptualized.

Kfir Damari, a co-founder of SpaceIL, said the team benefits from the game contest in two ways. "First, it contributes to SpaceIL's educational vision to inspire the next generation and promote STEM education, by offering a fun, practical way to learn more about space exploration," he told The Jewish Week in an email Tuesday. (STEM refers to insruction in science, technology, engineering and math.)

"Second, SpaceIL can use the data collected from the game to optimize our landing strategy in our actual mission."

The Israeli team, funded mosty by private donations with a grant from the government-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, is hoping to crowd-source some ideas from the simulation about the fuel they will need to transport the spacecraft – about the size of a dishwasher – 238,000 miles to the lunar surface.

Three finalists will be selected to present their ideas at the Annual Games for Change Festival that begins April 22 at NYU’s Skirball Center in Manhattan. It is attached to the Tribeca Film Festival. Games For Change is a nonprofit that facilitates the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts,” according to the organization’s website.

The Schusterman foundation supports innovative initiatives for "unleashing the power in young people to create positive change for themselves, the Jewish community and the broader world."

Read more about the SpaceIL mission here.