History in the Making: Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft Launches Tonight on Moon Mission

History in the Making: Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft Launches Tonight on Moon Mission”

Its creators expect it will land on the lunar surface on April 11.

If the mission is successful, Israel will join the ranks of the United States, China, and Russian Federation to have made a controlled landing on the moon.

SpaceIL said they hoped Beresheet will help inspire Israel's defence-focused space program to pursue more science missions by way of an "Apollo effect", referring to the manned lunar exploration program that became NASA's chief goal in the 1960s and early '70s.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who followed the liftoff at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) control room in Israel's central town of Yahud, described the launch as "a huge step for Israeli technology". The two others are a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force.

Americans are the only ones to have walked on the lunar surface, but have not been there since 1972.

SpaceIL, the Israeli organization behind Israel's first mission to the moon that's been working on the lander for eight years, is one of the original Google Lunar XPrize teams and is expected to be the first among almost 30 teams to make it to the moon.

Technically, it is far from a trivial mission.

Here's a layman's explanation of how Beresheet will arrive at its destination.

In an effort to preserve important human knowledge, Beresheet is also installed with a time capsule meant to serve as a backup for human civilization in a safe location off our planet. The US$100 million Beresheet mission couldn't afford its own rocket - even a little one - so the organisers opted for a ride share.

If succeeded, Beresheet would be the first privately-funded spacecraft to make the moon landing. The data may provide information about the moon's iron core.

Japan plans to send a small lunar lander, called SLIM, to study a volcanic area around 2020-2021.

"This time, when we go to the Moon, we're actually going to stay", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last week.

As seen from the launch site, the distant glow of the returning booster rocket was visible in the sky just as the moon appeared over the horizon. At a pre-launch briefing here on Wednesday (Feb. 20), SpaceIL co-founder Kfir Damari said Ramon "inspired us when we were younger", adding that he hopes SpaceIL's mission will inspire the next generation of Israeli rocket scientists.

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