Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Israel to launch its first spacecraft to the moon

Israel to launch its first spacecraft to the moon

At a press conference at defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries facilities Tuesday, Israeli nonprofit company SpaceIL announced its intention to send Israel's first unmanned spacecraft into orbit in December, and two months later, land it on the lunar surface. But the SpaceIL team hopes that putting an Israeli-made module on the moon could help maintain Israel's technological momentum for years to come. Once the mission is accomplished, the developer said the spacecraft will remain on the moon as a "symbol of Israeli success".

If successful, Israel would become the fourth country to land a craft on the moon, after the USA, the Soviet Union and China.

The craft, unveiled on Tuesday at state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries, stands about 1.5 meters high and weighs 585 kilograms (1,290 pounds).

Initially, this plan was part of a competition that Google set up called the Lunar XPrize.

A group of private Israeli companies are joining the race to return to the moon, after NASA's recent cancellation of a lunar mission and India's announcement that in October it will send a rover to look for signs of water and nuclear fuel.

The project culminated in the design of an Israeli lunar probe, which SpaceIL claimed would launch regardless of the contest's outcome.

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If the module reaches the moon as expected on February 13, 2019, it will make history as the smallest and first privately funded unmanned spacecraft to land on the moon.

Kahn said costs associated with the program hover around $95 million. SpaceIL was the first of 16 Google Lunar XPRIZE competitors to sign a launch contract and one of only five teams to reach the finals. The spacecraft will orbit the Moon for nearly two months before landing, where it will record and send video and conduct some small science observations using a magnetometer. "It is a national accomplishment that will put us on the world's space map". 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.

Only then it will embark on its scientific mission, and will begin to take photos and videos of the landing site, and measure the moon's magnetic field.

The initiative aims to raise interest in space and science among Israelis and encourage the younger generations to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professions. Upon landing, the craft will relay photographs and collect data about the moon's magnetism for research by Israel's Weizmann Institute.

For children from any country, SpaceIL introduced its Moon Kids website in English, chock full of fun interactive content about the moon and outer space.

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