Israeli spacecraft set for historic moon landing in coming months

The craft, which is shaped like a round table with four carbon fiber legs, is set to blast off in December from Florida's Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, said Ido Anteby, chief executive of the SpaceIL non-profit.

The relatively lean Israeli project, which was not initiated or funded by the state, could also mark a change in the way space-related projects are construed and performed, paving the way for more private initiatives. An Israeli team plans to land the probe on the moon next February.

SpaceIL CEO Dr. Ido Anteby revealed the spacecraft's course to the moon during the press event.

A key figure to hop on board the project was Morris Kahn, a South African-born Israeli billionaire, who heard SpaceIL present their project.

SpaceIL was the only Israeli company involved in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, which carried a £15million ($20million) victory prize until it was scrapped in March 2018 due to contestants' missed deadlines.

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).

In 2016, the company ran a promotional campaign at Ben Gurion Airport with a model of the craft, asking travelers to send a selfie with the spacecraft, which would be brought to the surface of the Moon. The IAI-built spacecraft will be moved to the U.S.in November to prepare for the December launch.

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Josef Weiss, IAI CEO said, "As one who has personally brought the collaboration with SpaceIL to IAI, I regard the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon as an example of the unbelievable capabilities one can reach in civilian-space activity". SpaceIL CEO Anteby said that the organisation will put the Israeli flag on the Moon.

IAI, which is the home of Israel's space activity, has been a full partner in this project from its inception.

On the moon, the vessel will transmit data to the control centre at IAI for two days before its systems shut down. To win the first prize of $20 million, the participants were required to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon.

The Google prize expired in March without a victor having reached the moon, but Israel's team pledged to push forward.

Nevertheless, after raising enough funds, SpaceIL determined to continue its mission.

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.

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