Israel plans to launch moon mission on SpaceX rocket this year

A scientist stands 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

SpaceIL was founded in 2011 and originally vied for Google's Lunar Xprize, which challenged private companies to try to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon.

Although the Google contest was eventually scrapped in March 2018 after none of the teams managed to launch their probes before the deadline, the SpaceIL group continued with its project, thanks to the support of its donors. Then, upon receipt of a command from mission control, the craft will enter a higher-altitude elliptical orbit around our planet, which will reach a point near the moon, project team members said.

"When the rocket is launched into space, we will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon." . "It's a small, smart spacecraft, it has a two meters diameter, its height is about 1.5 meters (3.2 feet), it weighs 600 kilograms (1,300 lbs), and will land on the Moon at the weight of 180 kilograms (396 lbs)". If it passes, it will head into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida, as a secondary payload along with satellites on a SpaceX rocket.

It might be a privately funded mission, but SpaceIL could be a national effort looking to raise interest in space travel throughout Israel.

Josef Weiss, IAI CEO said, "As one who has personally brought the collaboration with SpaceIL to IAI, I regard the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon as an example of the fantastic capabilities one can reach in civilian-space activity".

Mr Kahn said he hoped the mission would create an "Apollo effect" for the next generation in Israel - a reference to the enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and maths triggered by Neil Armstrong's Moon walk in 1969.


SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the worldwide Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. The prize would have given $30 million to the team that developed a low-priced method of robotic space exploration.

After succeeding in raising the critical funds to continue its activity, SpaceIL announced that it was determined to continue on its mission and to launch its spacecraft by the end of the year, regardless of the competition.

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 final launch date will be announced closer to the event.

The plan calls for the lander to execute a series of in-space maneuvers, then touch down on the lunar surface next February to transmit imagery and measure the moon's magnetic field. With the help of a broad network of volunteers, SpaceIL has already made presentations to about 900,000 children nationwide.

Ofer Doron, director of Israeli Aerospace Industry Program with the space craft.

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