Israel To Launch First Moon Mission This Year

Cristina Cross
July 12, 2018

At a historic press conference Tuesday, at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)'s MBT Space facility in Yehud, Israel, nonprofit SpaceIL and IAI announced a lunar mission to launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., this December, and land on the moon on February 13, 2019.

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

If successful, Israel will be the fourth country to boast the prestige of touching down on the moon after the US, Soviet Russia, and China. The lander will be a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket taking off from Florida, the team said today in a news release.

If successful, SpaceIL's $95 million project, funded largely by billionaire Morris Kahn, will become the first private enterprise endeavor to match the Moon exploration achievements of Russian Federation, the United States and China. ARSP.B1). SpaceIL originally hoped to win Google's Lunar XPRIZE, but eventually failed to meet the criteria, and the competition ended with no winners.

Josef Weiss, IAI CEO said, "As one who has personally brought the collaboration with SpaceIL to IAI, I regard the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon as an example of the unbelievable capabilities one can reach in civilian-space activity". The most prominent among these are Weizmann Institute of Science; Israel Space Agency; the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space; Bezeq and others.

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.

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The 2 meter-by-1.5 meter vehicle weighs 600 kilograms (1,323 pounds), making it the smallest spacecraft yet to touch down on the moon. Its maximum speed will reach more than 10 kilometers per second (36,000 kilometers, or almost 22,370 miles, per hour).

SpaceIL and the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries plan to launch their unmanned craft in December, the team said at a press conference at an IAI facility outside Tel Aviv.

Only then it will embark on its scientific mission, and will begin to take photos and videos of the landing site, and measure the moon's magnetic field. The data will be transmitted to the IAI control room during the two days following the landing.

Back in 2013, SpaceIL began developing its spaceship, cooperating with Israel Aeronautics Industries.

The project, which started in 2011 as part of Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) to land a small probe on the moon, has yet to receive IAI funding, despite the promise to provide a 10 percent contribution. The competition ended officially with no victor on March 31, when Google announced that it would no longer sponsor it.

SpaceIL president Morris Kahn expressed his excitement for the project, saying that the launch of the spacecraft is a national accomplishment that can put the country in the world's space map. The non-profit aims to change the discourse in Israel and to encourage boys and girls to regard science, engineering, technology and math as exciting opportunities for their future.

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