Last updated November 25th 2018

Canadian-Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams, a cycling enthusiast who helped build the Middle East’s first indoor velodrome cycling racetrack in Tel Aviv and brought the Giro d’Italia to Israel this summer, is contributing $5 million to Israeli startup SpaceIL which is set to launch Israel’s first spacecraft to the moon early next year.

SpaceIL said Monday that Adams would be joining the unique initiative, which, if successful, will see Israel become the fourth country — after the US, Russia, and China — to complete a controlled lunar landing.

The initiative, according to SpaceIL, is also meant to increase interest in space and science among Israeli, particularly in younger generations, and encourage them to study in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

“I believe that sending the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon will inspire Israeli school children to take up STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] studies and think about space exploration, and especially to believe that everything is possible,” Adams said at a recent tour of the Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) facility in the city of Yehud, where the spacecraft is being assembled.

Last month, Israel’s Space Agency (ISA) and the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology said they would provide NIS 7.25 million (almost $2 million) in funding for the project.

Also in October, Israel signed an agreement with NASA to fit advanced space tech on the Israeli spacecraft.

The project began as an effort by SpaceIL to take part in the Google Lunar X competition which came with a prize of $20 million. The March 2028 deadline came and went and the prize went unclaimed, but the startup vowed to maintain its efforts to put Israel on the moon.

Israel had been competing against four other teams: Moon Express (USA), Synergy Moon (an international collaboration of 15 countries), TeamIndus (India) and HAKUTO (Japan) in the contest, which had involved placing a spacecraft on the moon’s surface, traveling 500 meters on the moon, and transmitting high-definition video and images back to Earth. The winner would have won $20 million and the second-place team would have nabbed $5 million.

Founded in 2010 by engineers Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Weintraub, SpaceIL entered the race in 2012.