South African billionaire is funding Isreali private company on a moon mission

In a mission scheduled for Friday, Israel hopes to become the fourth country in the world to land a spacecraft on the moon, with the launch of the unmanned spacecraft Beresheet from Florida’s Cape Canaveral this Friday. If successful, the 160-kilogram four-legged spacecraft will also be the smallest and cheapest spacecraft to land on the moon.

The $100 million spacecraft is a joint venture between private companies SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, funded almost entirely from private donations from well-known philanthropists. The leading sponsor is South African billionaire Morris Kahn, born in March 1930 in Benoni, South Africa. Listed as the 2124th richest person on the planet by Forbes in 2018, Morris Khan is currently worth $1billion. Other sponsors include Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Lynn Schusterman, and others.

Previously, Russia (as the Soviet Union) and the United States have landed on the moon. China landed an unmanned spacecraft on the far side of the moon in 2013 while India’s initial probe crashed into the Moon in 2008 and was lost in orbit until NASA found it adrift in 2016.

Beresheet will lift off from Cape Canaveral at approximately 3:45 a.m. IST on Friday (8:45 p.m. Thursday EST), on one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX commercial space launches.

SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the international Google LunarX PRIZE competition, which offered participants a chance to win $20 million by landing an unmanned spacecraft on the moon. Google ended the contest officially on March 31 with no winner. But the group behind SpaceIL decided to continue its mission, turning to donors to help fund the bare-bones operation.

Since its establishment, SpaceIL has scaled into a national movement comprised of nearly thirty full-time staff, dozens of enthusiastic volunteers (mostly in the education field), and a network of hundreds of renowned academics, business leaders, and industry experts. Together we can make history and take Israel to the Moon!

The Beresheet spacecraft will measure magnetic fields on the moon, data which will be transferred to the Weizmann Institute to help scientists study how the moon was formed millions of years ago. Beresheet will send information for approximately two to three days before the sun’s rays are expected to melt parts of the communication system, ending the mission.

About Billionaire Morris Kahn
Morris Kahn is a South African-born billionaire entrepreneur. He is the founder of Golden Pages Israel, Amdocs, the Aurec Group, Coral World and other companies. Through Coral World he founded several marine parks around the world, including the underwater observatory in Eilat, Israel. He is active in philanthropy and venture philanthropy.

Morris Kahn made Aliyah from South Africa in 1957, at the age of 26. By his mid-30s, building on his entrepreneurial spirit and foresight, he achieved significant business success with the founding of Israel’s Golden (Yellow) Pages, followed by Coral World – underwater observatories based on a pioneering concept.

His first major success began with the establishment of the Golden Pages in Israel in 1968, which led to the co-founding of Amdocs in 1982, together with Shmuel and Tzvi Meitar. Amdocs provides customer relationship management and billing software for big telecommunications firms. The company, which is traded on NASDAQ (revenue in fiscal 2015: $3.6 billion) currently serves more than 300 clients in more than 90 countries, and has about 26,000 employees. Aurec also owns Golden Channels, Israel’s first cable company, founded in 1989 and Golden Lines, Israel’s first international communications company, founded in 1996.