Israel set to land spacecraft on the moon in early 2019

The SpaceIL moon landing craft

The SpaceIL moon landing craft

The project began when young engineers - Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub - chose to build a spacecraft and take part in the Lunar Xprize competition sponsored by Google, which originally included a $20 million prize for the first group of contestants to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon. The team says it will be the smallest spacecraft to land on the moon.

Its first task however will be to plant an Israeli flag on the moon, organizers said.

The lunar landing would make Israel the fourth country - after Russian Federation, the United States and China - to put a craft on the surface of the moon. The spacecraft, which weighs only about 600 kilograms, is considered the smallest to land on the moon.

According to SpaceIL, once the spacecraft disengages from the launch rocket, it will begin orbiting Earth in continuously larger elliptical orbits. 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.

The SpaceIL organization participated in the competition for the Google Lunar XC Prize.

Despite the setback SpaceIL continued developing its spacecraft, which is being built in co-operation with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a state-owned firm. The plan is for the lunar spacecraft to land on the moon on February 13, 2019, after a two-month journey from Earth.

"I am filled with pride that the first Israeli spacecraft, which is in its final construction and testing phases, will soon be making its way to the moon", said Morris Kahn, SpaceIL president and a founder of Israeli communications and media technology developer Amdocs Ltd.

SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the global Google Lunar XPRIZE competition.

Kahn said costs associated with the program hover around $95 million.

Israel will launch its first lunar mission in December. It will take about two months for the spacecraft to reach its destination after launch.

Dr Anteby said: "We will put the Israeli flag on the moon". "Going to the Moon was a hugely expensive government-run mission".

SpaceIL aims to set in motion an "Apollo effect" in Israel: to encourage the next generation of Israeli children to choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); to change their perception of these subjects; to generate a sense of capability; and to allow them to dream big dreams even in our small country. In recent years, SpaceIL has ignited the imagination of about 900,000 children nationwide, with the help of a broad network of volunteers.

Along with Kahn, the Israeli Space Agency and USA megadonor casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson are funding SpaceIL.

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