Israel to launch its first spacecraft to the moon

Israeli scientists stand next to an unmanned spacecraft which an Israeli team plans to launch into space at the end of the year and to land it on the Moon next year, in Yahud, Israel, July 10, 2018.

The CEO of the nonprofit SpaceIL, Ido Anteby, said that their spacecraft will be the smallest one ever to land on the surface of the moon.

If successful, Israel would become the fourth country to land a craft on the moon, after the US, the Soviet Union and China.

SpaceIL and the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries plan to launch their unmanned craft in December, the team said at a press conference at an IAI facility outside Tel Aviv.

Israeli space exploration firm SpaceIL, together with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), will launch a spacecraft into orbit via a SpaceX rocket in December, which they intend to land on the moon in February 2019.

Although this is an historic national achievement, it is essentially a private initiative by the three SpaceIL founders - Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub - who strived to fulfill the dream of reaching the moon, and registered for the challenging Google Lunar XPRIZE competition.

The Israeli lunar spacecraft will be the smallest to land on the moon, weighing only 1,322 pounds, or 600 kilograms.

In total, the project has cost approximately $95 million.

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The SpaceIL lunar space craft. "And this is going to be the first privately run mission to the Moon".

In the coming months, the Israeli spacecraft will undergo intensive checks and tests at IAI to prove that it can withstand the launch, flight and landing conditions, said Anteby.

It is measured to be four-feet high, and 6 ½-feet in diameter, and it will be able to reach a maximum speed of 22,370 miles per hour.

"The launch of the first Israeli spacecraft will fill Israel, in its 70th year, with pride", said SpaceIL President Morris Kahn.

"What we're doing is we're trying to replicate the Apollo effect in the United States", Kahn told reporters, referring to the surge in interest in science and engineering after the USA space program landed on the moon in 1969.

After landing, the craft will take photos and videos of the landing site and record the moon's magnetic field.

The program has always had STEM education as a secondary goal, aiming to encourage Israeli children to choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In recent years, SpaceIL has ignited the imagination of about 900,000 children nationwide, with the help of a broad network of volunteers.

IAI CEO Josef Weiss said he regards the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon as an example of the awesome capabilities once can reach in civilian space activity.

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