BriefIsrael to launch country's first space mission to the moon

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Israel's state-owned satellite manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries built the Beresheet lander. The spacecraft - called Beresheet, Hebrew for Genesis or "In The Beginning" - will take almost two months to reach the moon.

The unmanned robotic lander dubbed Beresheet - Hebrew for the biblical phrase "in the beginning" - soared into space from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 8:45 p.m. ET atop the 23-storey-tall rocket.

"This mission that we were talking about was really a mission impossible", said entrepreneur Morris Kahn, who donated $40 million to the project.

Israel seeks to become only the fourth country to successfully land on the moon, after Russian Federation, the USA and China. So far only superpowers - the Soviet Union, U.S. and China - have made the voyage, with their governments' strong financial backing.

On Friday, NASA is expected to decide whether to give its final go-ahead to SpaceX for a first, unmanned test flight on March 2 of a new capsule created to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Beresheet also carries a time capsule that contains, among other items, a "lunar library" provided by the Arch Mission Foundation, which seeks to preserve human knowledge for eons by storing it in various off-Earth locales. The four-legged lunar lander represents the country's first attempt to land on the Moon, but it also happens to be the first privately-funded lunar lander.

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Winetraub pointed out that the moon and the earth had to be in sync before the rocket could launch, adding, "The moon is coming around, and we're doing our own orbit, and we need to synchronize everything". The first soft landing on the moon came in 1966; executed by both the both Russian Federation and the United States; there was not another unmanned soft landing until China launched Chang'e 3 in 2013. Space Systems Loral took on that responsibility, signing up rideshare broker Spaceflight Inc. of Seattle, Washington, which then secured Israel's 600-kilogram Beresheet lander and the Air Force Research laboratory's 60-kilogram S5 smallsat.

Last year, SpaceIL was one of five finalists that failed to claim any part of the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million 21st century space race to send the first private mission to the Moon.

The Israeli spacecraft was launched using Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket together with USA and Indonesian satellites.

Previous missions have reached the moon much faster.

But it will have just enough time to carry out its primary objectives: plant an Israeli flag on the moon, measure the moon's magnetic field, study surrounding lunar craters, and of course, take some epic lunar selfies. The agency thinks these 9 companies can get it to the lunar surface.

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