BGU | The Sky is No Limit

The Beresheet-1 spacecraft en route to Florida. L-R: Eran Privman, Morris Kahn, Yariv Bash, and Kfir Damri. Photo: SpaceIL

“Three engineers were sitting in a bar” sounds like the beginning of a joke, especially when it continues with “and thinking about landing a spacecraft on the moon”... But that is what actually happened, and what set Kfir Damri, an engineering graduate of BGU, on his remarkable path all the way to the moon. He and his two partners had a dream and made it come true. Years after that meeting, Damri became one of the founders of SpaceIL, which launched the Beresheet-1 mission to land on the moon, and today he is leading the Beresheet-2 mission. The launch date has been set for the summer of 2025. Damri acquired his scientific toolbox at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where he obtained undergraduate and master’s degrees from the Department of Communication Systems Engineering. “I gained a broad perspective through my studies, which also encouraged personal initiative. I matured into the understanding that today’s technologies are not the technologies of tomorrow, so we need to focus on principles, because reality will continue changing,” said Damri. “The story of SpaceIL began in the summer of 2010 when I was completing my master’s degree in communication systems engineering

at Ben-Gurion University. All my friends from Unit 8200 [an elite IDF technology unit] had already begun developing their startups and I was still thinking about mine. I had several ideas that I had begun to explore when I received a Facebook message from Yariv Bash, inviting me to join him in trying for the Google Lunar X-Prize. This daunting and nearly impossible challenge appealed to me, even though I wasn’t yet familiar with the field of space. My children hadn’t been born yet, and I myself was still a kid.”

“When I saw Yariv’s message: ‘Who wants to come to the moon?’ I replied that, if he was serious, I was in. The three of us – Yariv, Jonathan Weintraub and I – met in a pub in Holon, and the rest is history.” “Morris Kahn, who became president of SpaceIL, was the first to offer us financial support and became our biggest donor, along with other serious philanthropists, including the Adelson, Adams, Shusterman, and Sagol families, companies like Mini Circuits and Bezeq, and countless small-scale donors, including children from all over the world who sent us their pocket money. Our strategic partners in the aerospace industry, the Weizmann Institute, the Israel Space Agency, NASA, the Ministry of Education, iCenter and others, were just as important. Our engineering and education volunteers, and of course SpaceIL’s own team of engineers and management, everyone came together to make the dream come true.” The original plan was to complete the project at a cost of eight million dollars and build a five kilogram spacecraft. In practice, Beresheet grew a hundred-fold and the costs increased twelve-fold. This meant restarting the engineering design and fundraising.

SpaceIL is a not-for-profit association established to encourage Israel’s next generation to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by undertaking the incredibly ambitious and extremely challenging project of landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon.


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