Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Science | By

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

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

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

Israel would then join the exclusive club of nations that has accomplished this hard feat since the 1960s, becoming the fourth nation to land a craft on the moon after Russian Federation, the United States and China. At 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds), it will be the smallest spaceship so far to make a lunar landing.

SpaceIL and the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries plan to launch their unmanned craft in December, the team said at a press conference at an IAI facility outside Tel Aviv. The lander will be a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket taking off from Florida, the team said today in a news release.

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 unmanned mission is a joint effort between private company Israel Aerospace Industries and nonprofit organization SpaceIL. This will be the smallest spacecraft to land on the moon to date. "And this is going to be the first privately run mission to the Moon".

The first-ever Israeli moon mission will launch before the end of the year, if all goes according to plan.

SpaceIL President Morris Kahn has donated about $27 million to the effort and chose to proceed even after the contest deadline passed and effectively ended without any finalists achieving the goal. The prize would have given $30 million to the team that developed a low-priced method of robotic space exploration. The spacecraft has four carbon fiber legs and fuel takes up two-thirds of its weight.

The Israeli spacecraft, about the size of a dishwasher, measure about 6.6 feet in diameter and about 1.65 feet in height.

Kahn said the lunar launch "will fill Israel, in its 70th year, with pride".

"What we're doing is we're trying to replicate the Apollo effect in the United States", Kahn told reporters, referring to the surge in interest in science and engineering after the USA space program landed on the moon in 1969. Because it always faces away from the Earth, it is impossible without this system in place to get signals back from the far side of the moon.

Once it touches down on the moon, the spacecraft will use its cameras to take photos and video of the lunar surface. With the help of a broad network of volunteers, SpaceIL has already made presentations to about 900,000 children nationwide.

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

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