Israel Launching Moon Mission This December

Moon landing SpaceIL lunar probe

SPACEIL GETTYMoon landing SpaceIL's lunar probe will launch by the end of the year

At a historic press conference Tuesday, at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)'s MBT Space facility in Yehud, Israel, nonprofit SpaceIL and IAI announced a lunar mission to launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., this December, and land on the moon on February 13, 2019.

Although the Google contest was eventually scrapped in March 2018 after none of the teams managed to launch their probes before the deadline, the SpaceIL group continued with its project, thanks to the support of its donors. What are the objectives of this moon mission?

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 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.

SpaceIL's spacecraft will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which offered $30 million (25 million euros) in prizes to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to come up with relatively low-priced moon missions.

It is expected to land on the Moon in February 2019.

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Mr Kahn said he hoped the mission would create an "Apollo effect" for the next generation in Israel - a reference to the enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and maths triggered by Neil Armstrong's Moon walk in 1969. The company undertook to launch its spacecraft this year, and has now announced its timetable for doing so. A final launch date will be announced closer to the event.

The SpaceIL craft is 1.5 meters (five feet) high and two meters in diameter, able to reach a maximum speed of more than 10 kilometers (6 miles) per second.

SpaceIL's module is to take photos and video of the landing site and measure the moon's magnetic field as part of a scientific experiment designed by Weizmann Institute researchers.

Back in 2013, SpaceIL began developing its spaceship, cooperating with Israel Aeronautics Industries.

"The launch of the first Israeli spacecraft will fill Israel, in its 70th year, with pride", said SpaceIL President Morris Kahn. With the help of a broad network of volunteers, SpaceIL has already made presentations to about 900,000 children nationwide.

The other goal is to give birth to an "Apollo Effect" in Israel, mirroring the United States enthusiasm that encouraged scientists to continue their research after the Apollo Moon landing in 1969.

IAI CEO Josef Weiss said he regards the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon as an example of the fantastic capabilities once can reach in civilian space activity.

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