Israel announces mission to land spacecraft on the Moon

SpaceX to launch Israeli spacecraft to the moon

Israel to launch first lunar space mission in December

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 only entities to have conducted controlled landings on the Moon are the governments of the former Soviet Union, the United States, and China.

The spacecraft's design and development process, which involved intensive work of engineers, scientists and team members, began in 2013 and continued until past year, when its construction at the IAI MABAT Plant commenced.

"Our mission was never about winning the prize money - although $20 million would have been nice", said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby.

The project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered $30 million (25 million euros) in awards to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to come up with relatively low-priced moon missions. Its maximum speed will reach more than 10 km per second (36,000 kilometers, or almost 22,370 miles, per hour).

The "smart spacecraft", developed by Israeli engineers, will be shipped to Cape Canaveral, Florida in November in preparation for the December launch. In May, China launched a relay satellite that will orbit the moon and allow it to receive signals from a planned probe that will land on the far side of the moon. Once the mission is accomplished, the developer said the spacecraft will remain on the moon as a "symbol of Israeli success". The spacecraft will disengage from the launch rocket at an altitude of 60,000 kilometers, or 37,282 miles, and will begin orbiting Earth in elliptical orbits.

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Challenges must still be overcome, including compensating for the craft's smaller fuel capacity, Inbar said. At this point, it will ignite its engines and reduce its speed to allow the moon's gravity to capture it.

The first stage of the lander will hoist the Israeli flag on the moon, he explained. It will orbit Earth in expanding ellipses and, about two months later, cross into the moon's orbit. The data will be transmitted to the IAI control room during the two days following the landing.

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

The cameras inbuilt in the spacecraft shall be taking pictures and videos of the moon's surface and its magnetometer measures the moon's magnetic field.

It might be a privately funded mission, but SpaceIL could be a national effort looking to raise interest in space travel throughout Israel. To date, 50,000 children have been reached by SpaceIL volunteers in classrooms around the world.

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