Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

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

SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the worldwide Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) competition, which had offered a prize of $20 million to the first privately funded team to put a robot down on the moon, move it at least 1,650 feet and have it beam high-definition photos and video to Earth. The team says it will be the smallest spacecraft to land on the moon.

"When the rocket goes into orbit", Kahn said, "I think we will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon".

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.

The 2 meter-by-1.5 meter vehicle weighs 600 kilograms (1,323 pounds), making it the smallest spacecraft yet to touch down on the moon.

The unmanned, $88 million Israeli spacecraft will blast off on a Falcon 9 rocket made by Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

Despite the setback SpaceIL continued developing its spacecraft, which is being built in co-operation with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a state-owned firm.

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So far, only the US, Russia and China have landed spacecrafts on the moon.

For the first time in its history, Israel will have a spacecraft on the moon next year, the SpaceIL corporation announced Tuesday. The prize would have given $30 million to the team that developed a low-priced method of robotic space exploration. 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 project culminated in the design of an Israeli lunar probe, which SpaceIL claimed would launch regardless of the contest's outcome. It will take about two months for the spacecraft to reach its destination after launch.

South African-born Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn, who supplied funding for the project, said that he hoped that this mission would create the sort of enthusiasm that greeted the Apollo missions in the United States. "It is a national accomplishment that will put us on the world's space map". It will begin orbiting Earth on an elliptical path. "Going to the Moon was a hugely expensive government-run mission".

Upon its landing on February 13, 2019, the spacecraft, carrying the Israeli flag, will begin taking photos and video of the landing site and will measure the moon's magnetic field as part of a scientific experiment conducted in collaboration with Weizmann Institute.

The first Israeli astronaut for NASA was Ilan Ramon, who was among those killed when Space Shuttle Columbia crashed on February 1, 2003.

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