Israel set to land spacecraft on the moon in early 2019


The unmanned mission is a collaboration between privately owned Israel Aerospace Industries and the non-profit organization SpaceIL, which participated in the Google Lunar XPrize competition that ended in March with no ultimate victor. China this year plans to land a probe on the unexplored dark side of the moon, where radio signals from Earth can't be received.

Speaking at press conference, SpaceIL's CEO Ido Anteby said his country's flag will be planted on the moon.

Israel would then join the exclusive club of nations that has accomplished this hard feat since the 1960s, becoming the fourth nation to land a craft on the moon after Russian Federation, the United States and China.

The dimensions of the spacecraft are 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) high and 2 meters (6.5 feet) in diameter.

A Falcon 9 rocket built by SpaceX will carry the craft to the moon from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on February 13, 2019.

Although this is an historic national achievement, it is essentially a private initiative by the three SpaceIL founders - Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub - who strived to fulfill the dream of reaching the moon, and registered for the challenging Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. Fuel will comprise 75 percent of its weight, which will be 180 kilograms on landing, less than any previous craft that landed on the moon, the company said.

SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the global Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. "And this is going to be the first privately run mission to the Moon".

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"I am filled with pride that the first Israeli spacecraft, which is in its final construction and testing phases, will soon be making its way to the moon", said Morris Kahn, SpaceIL president and a founder of Israeli communications and media technology developer Amdocs Ltd.

In total, the project has cost approximately $95 million. It will take about two months for the spacecraft to reach its destination after launch. It will orbit Earth in expanding ellipses and, about two months later, cross into the moon's orbit.

The entire journey, from launch to landing, is expected to last about eight weeks.

Upon its landing on February 13, 2019, the spacecraft, carrying the Israeli flag, will begin taking photos and video of the landing site and will measure the moon's magnetic field as part of a scientific experiment conducted in collaboration with Weizmann Institute. With the help of a broad network of volunteers, SpaceIL has already made presentations to about 900,000 children nationwide.

Kahn told journalists that he hoped to inspire young Israelis to take up the study of science.

The other goal is to give birth to an "Apollo Effect" in Israel, mirroring the U.S. enthusiasm that encouraged scientists to continue their research after the Apollo Moon landing in 1969.