Israel wants to send landing craft to the Moon by year’s end

Thursday, 12 Jul, 2018

News Brief: SpaceIL, an Israeli team that was once a competitor in the now-defunct Google Lunar X Prize, says it will have its lander launched toward the moon in December.

Ofer Doron, head of IAI's space division, said Israel was "going to show the way for the rest of the world" to send a spacecraft to the Moon at a reasonable cost.

The country hopes to become the fourth country to land on the moon after the United States, Russia, and China.

SpaceIL's spacecraft is not only small-it measures 2 meters-by-1.5 meters and weighs 600 kilograms (1,323 pounds)-but also significantly less expensive than those usually launched into deep space.

South African-Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn, president of SpaceIL, who has donated $27 million to the enterprise, was extremely excited: "The launch of the first Israeli spacecraft will fill Israel, in its 70th year, with pride".

While famed entrepreneur Elon Musk sent one of his Tesla cars into space last year on top of his SpaceX rocket, this year, Musk will help deliver Israel's first unmanned lunar spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, where it will assume a course that will take it to its final destination: the moon.

Aerospace Industries Ltd. (which is run by the Israeli government) and the nonprofit SpaceIL are behind the plan to land an unmanned probe on the moon by February. The plan is for the lunar spacecraft to land on the moon on February 13, 2019, after a two-month journey from Earth.

Once it completes its mission, the spacecraft will remain on the moon, proudly displaying the flag of the State of Israel.

SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the worldwide Google Lunar XPRIZE competition.

"We will put the Israeli flag on the Moon", said Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL, during Tuesday's press conference in Tel Aviv, at the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), where the spacecraft and ambitious timeline for the first non-governmental moon-landing was unveiled. Building the spacecraft cost $95 million to date.

Despite financial pitfalls in recent years that almost saw SpaceIL's spacecraft grounded permanently, the team is confident that December's launch will take place on time. "It is a national accomplishment that will put us on the world's space map". It will then ignite its engines and reduce its speed to allow the moon's gravity to pull it in, and will begin orbiting it.

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.

But SpaceIL has continued to work on its moon mission.

The mission pursues a goal: they want to learn more about the magnetic features of the moon rocks.