The European Space Agency has been commissioned to participate in a project to carry a Torah scroll to the moon, according to New Scientist magazine.
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The commission, which was confirmed by the agency’s engineering arm in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, came from a Tel Aviv-based group called, appropriately, the Torah on the Moon project. The job of the agency will be to test the space hardiness of the capsule that will contain the Torah scroll.
According to New Scientist, the Torah on the Moon team had been hoping to send its first capsule with a lander built by SpaceIL, the Israeli participant in the Google Lunar X Prize. When SpaceIL declined to agree to carry the scroll, the project apparently turned to another X Prize entrant, the Spain-based Barcelona Moon Team.
Barcelona is due to launch in the second half of 2015 on a Chinese Long March rocket. Ed Chester of the team’s advisory group says the firm will not comment on any aspect of its mission while delicate negotiations are being ironed out.
Eighteen teams from around the world are vying for Google’s $20 million prize, offered to the first privately-funded group to land a robot on the moon, travel 500 meters and send back two videos before the end of 2015.
Whoever carries it to the moon, the Torah scroll will be contained in a special capsule designed to protect it from harsh radiation and temperature changes on the moon for at least 10,000 years.
If the mission succeeds, later flights will carry Hindu scriptures called the Vedas and the ancient Chinese philosophical work, the I-Ching.