Scientist and entrepreneur Lynne B Harrison of Verona has been named to the board of Space IL, an Israeli company competing to land a space module on the moon.
Harrison, founder and president of Harrison Research Laboratories Inc. in Union, has deep roots in the Jewish community, particularly as a supporter of Hillel and New Jersey Y Camps.
The three Israelis behind Space IL were inspired by the $30 million Google Lunar X-Prize, a global race to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon and complete certain tasks.
If no one succeeds by the end of 2015, the contest expires.
Launched in 2007 by Google and the X Foundation to encourage robotic space exploration, the contest initially attracted 33 teams; of these, 22 remain. The rules prohibit any government from participating directly with a team or from being the primary financer of a team.
SpaceIL is the only Israeli team competing.
For Harrison, the match was a natural from every perspective.
“I was enormously excited when SpaceIL reached out to me last year,” she said. “Google believes man’s future is in space, like I do.”
She was impressed that the company was able to raise “in the middle $20 millions” from private Israeli citizens.
“That’s remarkable,” she said. So far, the Israeli government has supported the effort with just $1,500 and has made a second pledge of the same amount.
The scientist in Harrison is excited about the broad themes of the contest.
“Humanity in space — on the moon, in the solar system — is probably inevitable,” she said. She also thinks it is likely that whatever technology is developed in connection with future space exploration will redound to benefit life on earth, and points to things we now take for granted, like Teflon for cookware, created as a result of material originally developed for the first moon landing.
But the contest also appeals to the Zionist in Harrison. “The whole Jewish world will take pride in seeing a magen David on the moon. After the module lands, when you look up at the moon without a telescope you won’t be able to see the magen David, but you’ll know it’s there,” she said. “This is a wonderful first step — for the Jewish people and for Israel.”
Harrison’s company tests products for safety and efficacy for major companies in the United States and around the world. As a philanthropist, she has served in a variety of positions on Hillel’s international boards and committees, including as vice chair of the Hillel International Board of Directors and chair of the Hillel International Accreditation Committee, and was named Hillel’s 2009 Woman of the Year. She founded and funded Harrison LAPID for leadership and professional development of young Hillel professionals.
A member of Temple Sholom of West Essex in Cedar Grove, where she has served on the board, she also serves on the board of Friends of Israel Sci Tech. She is an officer of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and a major donor to UJA. She also funded the Dr. Lynne B Harrison Science Center at the New Jersey “Y” Camps. She is a patron of the Israel Philharmonic, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Harrison has two daughters and three grandchildren, and, she added, she’s proud of her “world-class” chicken soup.