SpaceX is rocketing the first private mission to the moon tonight

Katie Ramirez
February 22, 2019

The 585-kilogram, dishwasher-sized lander was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defence contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with $US100 million furnished nearly entirely by private donors.

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin wished the Israeli non-profit organization SpaceIL well on Thursday ahead of the launch of its unmanned robotic explorer, named "Beresheet", to the moon.

While Beresheet may be dominating the publicity for today's launch, the mission wouldn't be heading to the moon if it weren't for Indonesia's Nusantara Satu satellite and SpaceX's ability to offer ride-share missions.

The first soft landing on the moon was achieved by the Soviet Union's Luna 9 spacecraft in 1966.

If the mission succeeds, it could unlock information the moon's iron core. There were about a dozen more unmanned landings by the USA and Soviets. Last month, China became the first country to land on the far side of the moon. Its creators say they hope Beresheet, which means "In the beginning", in Hebrew, will inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers in Israel and across the world.

During a mission slated to last just two to three days on the moon, Beresheet will use on board instruments to photograph the landing site on the Sea of Tranquility, SpaceIL vice-president Yigal Harel said.

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How that would translate into seats would depend on where the votes were cast and how many Independent Group MPs were running. However, Ms Allen rejected calls for them to step down to contest by-elections, saying: "This is what the big parties do".

If successful, Beresheet will end up as the prototype for a series of future moon landing missions planned jointly by IAI and Germany's OHB System on behalf of the European Space Agency.

In January 2017, SpaceIL became one of the competition's five finalists. "The superpowers who managed to land a spacecraft on the Moon have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding", IAI said in an earlier statement.

Beresheet carries a "time capsule" loaded with digital files containing a Bible, children's drawings, Israeli songs, memories of a Holocaust survivor and the blue-and-white Israeli flag.

"We have a vision to show off Israel's best qualities to the entire world", Sylvan Adams, a SpaceIL donor and Canadian-Israeli philanthropist, said during a pre-launch briefing in Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday (Feb. 20). In the background played SpaceX's live launch broadcast from Hawthorne, California, where an announcer said the Falcon 9 first stage would attempt to land on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You under the harshest weather conditions to date. The first competitors to do it would win a $US20 million first-place prize.

The total cost of one of its Falcon 9 launches is estimated to reach £44 million ($61m), while each of its larger Falcon Heavy flights costs £65 million ($90m).

Previous missions have reached the moon much faster. The competition officially ended with no winners on March 31, 2018, after Google ended its sponsorship.

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