Monday, 16 July, 2018

Israel To Launch First Moon Mission This Year

An artist's rendering of the SpaceIL lunar spacecraft An artist's rendering of the SpaceIL lunar spacecraft
Sandy Nunez | 12 July, 2018, 12:24

SpaceIL was one of five finalists that failed to claim any part of the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million twenty-first century space race to send the first private mission to the Moon. The team says it will be the smallest spacecraft to land on the moon.

Speaking at press conference, SpaceIL's CEO Ido Anteby said his country's flag will be planted on the moon.

Israel announced Tuesday that it will launch its first lunar mission in December 2018, hoping to become the fourth country to land on the moon, following the U.S., Russian Federation and China.

The craft, unveiled on Tuesday at state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries, stands about 1.5 meters high and weighs 585 kilograms (1,290 pounds). The spacecraft will be ready to launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceIL was formed by three people and participated in Google's Lunar XPRIZE competition, which closed in March without naming a victor. Fuel will comprise 75 percent of its weight, which will be 180 kilograms on landing, less than any previous craft that landed on the moon, the company said.

SpaceIL President Morris Kahn has donated about $27 million to the effort and made a decision to proceed even after the contest deadline passed and effectively ended without any finalists achieving the goal.

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Israel will launch its first lunar mission in December.

After succeeding in raising the critical funds to continue its activity, SpaceIL announced that it was determined to continue on its mission and to launch its spacecraft by the end of the year, regardless of the competition. "When the rocket is launched into space, we will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon". The prize would have given $30 million to the team that developed a low-priced method of robotic space exploration. The spacecraft will orbit the Moon for nearly two months before landing, where it will record and send video and conduct some small science observations using a magnetometer. It will then begin orbiting the moon, until the appropriate time to begin the landing process.

The entire journey, from launch to landing, will last approximately two months. "Going to the Moon was a hugely expensive government-run mission".

Once it touches down on the moon, the spacecraft will use its cameras to take photos and video of the lunar surface. This way, they will raise interest in space among the people in Israel, and will also encourage young generations to study STEM.

The first Israeli astronaut for NASA was Ilan Ramon, who was among those killed when Space Shuttle Columbia crashed on February 1, 2003.