Published: Sat, February 23, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

BriefIsrael to launch country's first space mission to the moon

BriefIsrael to launch country's first space mission to the moon

"Upon deployment, it will travel to the moon using its own power, a voyage that will take almost two months".

SpaceIL's "Beresheet" mission is the first-ever private moon landing attempt, started by a Google Lunar XPrize team backed by South African billionaire Morris Kahn. The first soft landing on the moon came in 1966; executed by both the both Russian Federation and the United States; there was not another unmanned soft landing until China launched Chang'e 3 in 2013.

The initial project was conceived in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition to successfully land an unmanned probe on the Moon, which was eventually discontinued before a victor was declared since no competitors were able to complete their projects by the March 31, 2018, deadline. A time capsule is aboard the lander - which includes a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003 - as well as a lunar library containing 30 million pages on a disk from the US-based Arch Mission Foundation.

The Israeli spacecraft was launched using Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket together with U.S. and Indonesian satellites.

Piggybacking on the launch was the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) S5 experimental small spacecraft, which will carry out a one-year mission tracking objects in geostationary orbit, and SpaceIL's lunar spacecraft, Beresheet.

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At 8:45 p.m. Eastern Standard time on Thursday, Israel will launch its initial mission to the moon, which also represents the world's first privately funded lunar voyage. It will also be the first non-governmental spacecraft to reach the moon. During the descent and after landing the lander should record video and take panoramic photos while transmitting the footage to a control room in Yehud. The moon doesn't have a global magnetic field like Earth does, but specific regions and rocks are magnetized, as previous lunar expeditions have found. Mare Serenitatis is one of these regions, and Beresheet aims to collect more data about it. NASA and SpaceIL will share that data, as part of their flight support agreement. "We have to consider the requirements from the other payloads on the rocket".

The spacecraft will slingshot around Earth for about six weeks, firing thrusters to stretch out its orbit with every pass until it can be captured by the moon's gravity.

These were "hard landings", meaning the craft crashed into the moon.

Once it lands on the moon, the spacecraft carrying the Israeli flag will begin taking photographs of the landing site and a selfie to prove that it has indeed landed on the moon. This is what makes NASA's offer to track the spacecraft with its Deep Space Network and lunar orbiters so valuable.

Beresheet is only expected to survive on the lunar surface for about two or three days.

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