Photos From SpaceX’s 70th Launch of Lunar Lander for Israel

Gwen Vasquez
February 24, 2019

Israel will join the ranks of United States, China, and Russian Federation if Beresheet successfully lands on the lunar surface. The company again successfully recovered the first stage of the rocket by landing it on the barge "Of Course I Still Love You" floating in the Atlantic Ocean.

The scheme, which grew out of a drunken conversation in Tel Aviv less than a decade ago, would be the first private space mission ever to reach the moon.

The spacecraft went into orbit at a velocity of 22,000 miles per hour at about 8:45 p.m. EST, after what Reuters described as a "textbook" disengagement from the launch missile.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket booster endured "a rather spicy landing" on Thursday night as it returned from a successful launch, a SpaceX engineer said on a livestream.

"Congratulations to SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in an agency press release.

So far, only Russian Federation, the United States and China have made the 239,000-mile journey to Earth's giant, dusty satellite.

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The New York Times stated that "Beresheet" is expected to land at a lava plain named Mare Serenitatis, where it will measure the moon's magnetic fields, offering an opportunity to study the moon's iron core.

The robotic lander is the brainchild of SpaceIL, an Israeli non-profit and Google Lunar X Prize finalist. The other two items taken up were an Indonesian communications satellite and a US Air Force experimental satellite.

Israel is aiming to land on the moon after hitching a ride with SpaceX.

Just after 34 minutes, the Israeli moon lander Beresheet, which is owned by a nonprofit called SpaceIL, was deployed to orbit. In the case of a successful landing Beresheet would be the first privately funded spacecraft that reached the surface of another celestial body. It is also the first private rather than government effort with funds coming from private donors including Morris Kahn and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.

To save on fuel, the spacecraft is taking a more convoluted route to the Moon than usual. The lander will also carry a time capsule, which contains a "Lunar Library".

Once planted on the Moon, Beresheet will transmit photos and videos back to Earth, per SpaceNews. Space Systems Loral took on that responsibility, signing up rideshare broker Spaceflight Inc. of Seattle, Washington, which then secured Israel's 600-kilogram Beresheet lander and the Air Force Research laboratory's 60-kilogram S5 smallsat.

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