Science

SpaceX is rocketing the first private mission to the moon tonight

SpaceX is rocketing the first private mission to the moon tonight”

A Falcon 9 launch vehicle has successfully blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying Israel's first lunar mission, Beresheet, Indonesian communications satellite Nusantara Satu, and the US Air Force Research Laboratory S5 spacecraft, a live broadcast on SpaceX's website showed. If everything goes according to plan, Beresheet will zip around Earth for about six weeks in ever-widening orbits before heading toward its final destination.

Beresheet (Hebrew for "in the beginning") was put together by non-profit outfit SpaceIL to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE.

After that, it will take a month to reach an orbit 250 miles from Earth, and then continue to circle farther out until it is captured into a lunar orbit.

"This is Uber-style space exploration", SpaceIL co-founder Yonatan Winetraub said Wednesday (Feb. 20) during a prelaunch news conference. A half-hour after liftoff, the lunar lander was free and on its way.

The 585kg lander will make its way to the Moon under its own power and is expected to arrive in orbit on 4 April before heading to a soft landing on 11 April. "Make us proud", he said on Thursday.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Israeli startup SpaceIL partnering with SpaceX to launch the first private lunar lander to the Moon and China's lunar lander on the far side of the moon. "The strength of Israel in the world is rising, rising, rising and rising to the moon", Netanyahu said.

Mission team members won't just be sitting on their hands while they're waiting for this sync-up. This is what makes NASA's offer to track the spacecraft with its Deep Space Network and lunar orbiters so valuable.

"Israel is a very small country, as small as New Jersey, and we're shooting for the moon, SpaceIL manager of the Beresheet program Yigal Harel said". Beresheet will land on the moon's near side, within the large basaltic plain called Mare Serenitatis ("Sea of Serenity").

A successful touchdown would be a huge deal. What's even more unbelievable about SpaceIL is that all three of these nation-state operations that have made it to the moon so far have had enormous capital backing up their missions.

NASA, which has installed equipment on Beresheet to upload its signals from the Moon, said last week it aims to land instruments later this year or next year and that it is inviting private sector bids to build and launch the USA probes. While only about the size of a washing machine, its mission is out of this world.

Above, technicians stand next to the SpaceIL lunar module. "If they can understand that, and if they can meet engineers and hear their story and see that they come from all different kinds of backgrounds, they can understand that they themselves can be those who will build the next spacecraft".



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