Published: Sun, February 24, 2019
Science | By Celia Watts

SpaceIL: the First private space vehicle to the moon

SpaceIL: the First private space vehicle to the moon

The latter, called Beresheet, will spend two months traveling to the moon, after which it'll beam back images and video from the lunar surface - a first for a privately built spacecraft.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket endured "a rather spicy landing" on Thursday night returning from a successful mission.

NASA, which has installed equipment on Beresheet to upload its signals from the Moon, said last week it aims to land instruments later this year or next year and that it is inviting private sector bids to build and launch the United States probes.

The company, a non-profit, is funded by the Israeli government and a variety of investors.

The unmanned craft, weighing 1,300 pound and standing about 1 metre tall and 2.3 metres wide will begin a almost seven-week journey to the Moon, and aims to touch down on Mare Serenitatis two months later. The lander will use a thruster from Norwegian supplier Nammo to reach the moon, and to conduct a 500-meter "hop" to another location on the lunar surface. It's expected to reach the moon on April 4 and land on April 11.

If successful, Israel will be only the fourth country ever to land a spacecraft successfully on the moon. Beresheet took off from from Cape Canaveral on one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets at 8:45 Eastern time tonight. Critical to the success of the mission is the speed at which the Beresheet approaches the Moon, as it may overshoot it if it doesn't slow down enough. SpaceIL and IAI are attempting a major space milestone: Israel hasn't landed a lunar lander on the moon's surface before, so this mission will be a first for the nation.

A communications satellite for Indonesia is the main cargo.

The rocket was returning from a mission to launch a trio of lunar craft into space, including a $100 million Israeli moon lander from SpaceIL the first private mission to the moon. Its first spaceship designed for a moon landing is set to take off later this evening from Florida. It's a first not just for Israel but for commercial space.

As part of the collaboration, SpaceIL will provide NASA scientific data from the spacecraft's magnetometer to study whether Moon rocks contain a history of the magnetic field there.

SpaceIL's founding was typical of Start-Up Nation: A group of friends hatched the project over drinks at a Tel Aviv-area bar in response to a Google technology competition with a $20 million prize, co-founder Yonatan Winetraub said.

The spacecraft is also bringing a time capsule including a miniature copy of the Bible, along with Israeli national symbols, including the saying "Am Israel Chai": The People of Israel Live.

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