First Israeli spacecraft to land on moon next year

Katie Ramirez
July 15, 2018

An Israeli organization said Tuesday that it hopes to become the first non-governmental entity to land a spacecraft on the moon when it attempts to launch a module later this year. SpaceIL presented its completed spacecraft, scheduled to launch in December on a SpaceX rocket. However, the probe will land on the Moon in February 2019.

"We're trying to replicate the Apollo effect in the US", Kahn said, referring to the US programme that landed the first humans on the moon in 1969.

The spacecraft's journey to the moon will last about two months.

To win, a privately funded team had to be the first to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon's surface, travel 500 meters and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth.

SpaceIL is backed mainly by private donors, including USA casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and billionaire Morris Kahn who co-founded Amdocs, one of Israel's biggest high-tech companies. The project took nearly eight years with an expenditure of $95 million till now, revealed by the trusted sources from Israel. SpaceIL's president, Morris Kahn, has provided about $27 million. Once the mission is accomplished, the developer said the spacecraft will remain on the moon as a "symbol of Israeli success".

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Mr. Josef Weiss, IAI CEO concluded that as one who has personally brought the collaboration with SpaceIL to IAI, he regards the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon as an example of the incredible capabilities one can reach in civilian space activity.

The competition, however, ended with no victor on March 31, when Google announced that it would no longer sponsor it.

Upon reaching the moon, the craft will land and operate autonomously to conduct a two-day scientific mission in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science, a research university in central Israel, Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL said in the press conference. The technical challenges remain vast and the companies and non-profits in the running for the first private landing are operating on budgets under $100 million.

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. This will take about two days to finish. SpaceIL participated in the Google Lunar XPrize competition, which wrapped up earlier this year with no ultimate victor. This way, they will raise interest in space among the people in Israel, and will also encourage young generations to study STEM. In recent years, SpaceIL has ignited the imagination of about 900,000 children nationwide, with the help of a broad network of volunteers.

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