Israel sent up its first lunar lander with yesterday's SpaceX launch

Cristina Cross
February 23, 2019

The 1,290-pound (585-kg) spacecraft was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with $100 million furnished nearly entirely by private donors.

An Israeli spacecraft blasted off to the moon in an attempt to make the country’s first lunar landing, following a launch Thursday night by SpaceX.

Israelis swelled with pride overnight as many woke in the predawn hours to watch the Beresheet lunar spacecraft lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida atop a SpaceX rocket. Funded by the Israeli company SpaceIL, the unmanned, 1,300 pound craft, called "Beresheet", which is the first word in the Bible and means "In the beginning", rocketed into space from Florida's Cape Canaveral.

The forty-day voyage culminates with a landing scheduled for April 11.

Beresheet's creators are Israel Aerospace Industries and the nonprofit company SpaceIL, who built the spacecraft for $100 million, including launch costs - a tiny cost for a space mission. The two others are a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force.

These were "hard landings", meaning the craft crashed into the moon.

Beresheet separation Beresheet separated from its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and the Nusantara Satu/S5 satellite stack 34 minutes after launch on 22 February 2018.

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It will eventually be captured by the moon's gravity where it will enter a lunar orbit. Previously, only the U.S., U.S.S.R, and China have landed spacecraft on the moon.

It will also measure the moon's magnetic field and send all the data back to SpaceIL's Israel-based ground station Yehud, via NASA's Deep Space Network, he said.

"Congratulations to SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency".

S5, built by Blue Canyon Technologies of Boulder, Colorado, is created to study the space environment, evaluating if low-priced satellites can improve knowledge of objects in geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers above the Earth.

A time capsule is aboard the lander - which includes a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003 - as well as a lunar library containing 30 million pages on a disk from the US -based Arch Mission Foundation.

SpaceX is broadcasting the launch of its mission starting 15 minutes before launch, or around 8:30 p.m. this evening. The 5-foot-tall (1.5 meters) lander will do a bit of science work during its two-Earth-day surface mission. Oded Aharonson of Israel's preeminent Weizmann Institute, explaining the significance of the launch for the Jewish state, which has several satellites.

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