by: Ilse Strauss
SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit working to promote scientific and technological education, and the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced this week that an unmanned spacecraft bearing the blue-and-white Star of David will blast off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida for the Jewish state’s first lunar mission in December 2018. Following an eight-week trip through outer space, the spider-like craft is then expected to touch down on the moon’s surface on February 13, 2019.
Should the mission be successful, Israel will earn itself a place in history for sending the smallest and first privately-funded unmanned spacecraft to touch down on the moon, ISRAEL21c reports.
Israel’s lunar ambitions began eight years ago when SpaceIL entered the Google Lunar XC Prize competition to land the first privately funded unmanned spacecraft on the moon. The competition concluded in March last year without a winner. Yet SpaceIL continued to build its craft, even though the cash prize of $20 million was no longer available. The hard work has finally paid off.
“We will put the Israeli flag on the moon,” vowed Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL.
“Our mission was never about winning the prize money—although $20 million would have been nice,” he said. “It’s about showing the next generation that anything is possible—that even our small country can push the limits of imagination.”
“During the landing the craft will photograph the landing area with stills and video and even record itself,” Anteby continued. It will also carry out an experiment to measure the moon’s magnetic field on behalf of Weizmann Institute of Science. The craft will complete its mission in two days, after which it will head back to earth.
Only three countries—the US, Russia and China—have achieved controlled moon landings in the past. Since tiny Israel lacks the resources that superpowers have at their disposal, SpaceIL was reliant on private investors for the $88 million required to develop and build the module.
The SpaceIL craft measures only 2 meters [6.6 ft.] in diameter and stands 1.5 meters [4.9 ft.] tall. Weighing in at 600 kilograms [1,323 lbs.], it is the smallest craft yet to head to the moon.
“We are making history,” said SpaceIL President and Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn. Kahn donated a whopping $27 million to the project. “When the rocket is launched into space, we will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon.”
Posted on July 13, 2018
Source: (Bridges for Peace, 13 July 2018)
Photo Credit: Mhy/pixabay.com
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