SpaceX launches satellites, moon mission on Falcon 9

Katie Ramirez
February 24, 2019

SpaceIL was founded eight years ago to compete in the Google Lunar X Prize, an global competition to see whether a private enterprise could land a spacecraft on the moon, move 500 meters in any direction, and transmit live, high-definition video from the lunar surface.

Beresheet is created to spend just two to three days using on-board instruments to photograph its landing site and measure the moon's magnetic field.

Falcon 9 fell back through the earth's atmosphere after releasing its triple payload: SpaceIL's $100 million lunar lander, Indonesia's Nusantara Satu satellite, and a US Air Force research satellite.

Israel-based organization SpaceIL had its lander, Beresheet, launched successfully at 8:45 p.m. on February 21, starting its 40-day journey to the moon. And SpaceX's flagship Falcon 9 rocket has proven its capable of ferrying multiple satellites into space and depositing them in their appropriate orbits.

Winetraub pointed out that the moon and the earth had to be in sync before the rocket could launch, adding, "The moon is coming around, and we're doing our own orbit, and we need to synchronize everything".

The four-legged Beresheet, barely the size of a washing machine, will circle Earth in ever bigger loops until it's captured by lunar gravity and goes into orbit around the moon.

SpaceX said it planned to land the first stage on a droneship, which will land in the Atlantic Ocean, following separation. The first "soft landings" for both countries came in 1966, when spacecraft made controlled descents to the lunar surface.

Cargo jet with 3 aboard crashes near Houston
Sheriff Brian Hawthorne described the crash site as "total devastation" and said the cleanup could take weeks. The last transmission sent to the aircraft reported heavy rain near the airport.

SpaceIL has no plans for future explorations of its own beyond Beresheet and "will not continue after this mission", Harel said. SpaceIL was later named one of five finalists for the prize, along with Cape Canaveral-based Moon Express. But Israel's privately funded lunar lander - a first not just for Israel but commercial space - is generating the buzz.

The unmanned mission is part of renewed global interest in the Moon, sometimes called the "eighth continent" of the Earth, and comes 50 years after American astronauts first walked on the lunar surface.

The US Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon - the only ones yet achieved - between 1969 and 1972.

Beresheet is helping to blaze a trail for low-priced private space exploration.

SpaceIL co-founder Yonatan Weintraub told Fox News in a statement, "After more than eight years of working with brilliant engineers, we are finally ready to launch our spacecraft to the Moon!"

Simply making it to the moon, however, would be a historic achievement, as Beresheet would be the first non-government craft to reach the lunar surface. Up to this point, the moon has been a destination that only wealthy and powerful nations could reach.

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