Israel plans first lunar space mission in December

A final launch date will be announced closer to the event.

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

If successful, SpaceIL's $95 million project, funded largely by billionaire Morris Kahn, will become the first private enterprise endeavor to match the Moon exploration achievements of Russian Federation, the United States and China.

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.

"It's going to show the way for the rest of the world" to send a spacecraft to the moon at a reasonable cost, said Ofer Doron, head of IAI's space division. The spacecraft will land on the moon in February 2019.

The project took eight years of collaborative efforts.

IAI, which is the home of Israel's space activity, has been a full partner in this project from its inception. The measurements are intended for research conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science-UCLA.

SpaceIL will ship the as yet unnamed module to the United States in November ahead of the launch.

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This illustration imagines what the spacecraft would look like on the moon. Its maximum speed will reach more than 10 km per second (36,000 kilometers, or almost 22,370 miles, per hour).

The craft, which is shaped like a round table with four carbon fibre 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. It will be the secondary payload, launched with other satellites.

Once the mission is accomplished, the developer said the spacecraft will remain on the moon as a "symbol of Israeli success". The data will be transmitted to the IAI control room during the two days following the landing.

SpaceIL made the announcement at an Israel Aerospace Industries space technology site in Yehud on Tuesday, July 10, after month of preparations. The spacecraft will weigh 585 kilograms at launch but will land on the lunar surface with only 180 kilos.

The opportunity to win $30 million through the competition ended in March, but now continues without a cash prize.

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.

A goal of the mission is to spark interest in space among young Israelis. In recent years, SpaceIL has ignited the imagination of about 900,000 children nationwide, with the help of a broad network of volunteers.

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