Israel To Launch First Moon Mission This Year

Gwen Vasquez
July 12, 2018

State-run Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. and non-profit SpaceIL announced plans to launch a lunar mission in December, putting Israel on track to become the fourth country to land on the moon.

The entire endeavour began roughly seven years ago when SpaceIL joined a Google technology contest to land a small, unmanned probed on the moon. Once the mission is accomplished, the developer said the spacecraft will remain on the moon as a "symbol of Israeli success".

The lunar landing would make Israel the fourth country - after Russian Federation, the United States and China - to put a craft on the surface of the moon.

The dainty spacecraft is just about 5 feet (1.5 meters) high and weighs 1,322 pounds (600 kilograms).

The nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) plan to launch a robotic lunar landing mission atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in December 2018. 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.

It might be a privately funded mission, but SpaceIL could be a national effort looking to raise interest in space travel throughout Israel.

"After eight challenging years, 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 Kahn.

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The overall cost of the project is estimated to be around $95 million.

SpaceIL President Morris Kahn has donated about $27 million to the effort and chose to proceed even after the contest deadline passed and effectively ended without any finalists achieving the goal. Unlike bigger spacecraft that took four days to reach the moon, the smaller fuel capacity means SpaceIL must take an indirect way, orbiting the Earth to reach the moon, SpaceIL said.

"We will put the Israeli flag on the Moon", SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby said at a press event, The Times of Israel reports. "When the rocket is launched into space, we will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon". It will then ignite its engines and reduce its speed to allow the moon's gravity to pull it in, and will begin orbiting it.

In addition to taking photos on the surface of the moon, the spacecraft will measure its magnetic field at the landing site, using a magnetometer installed on it.

The program has always had STEM education as a secondary goal, aiming to encourage Israeli children to choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The first Israeli astronaut for NASA was Ilan Ramon, who was among those killed when Space Shuttle Columbia crashed on February 1, 2003.

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