Israel Aerospace Industries and the nonprofit SpaceIL announced Tuesday that they plan a December launch from Cape Canaveral to land on the moon on February 13. SpaceIL presented its completed spacecraft, scheduled to launch in December on a SpaceX rocket. The team says it will be the smallest spacecraft to land on the moon. The spacecraft will orbit the Moon for nearly two months before landing, where it will record and send video and conduct some small science observations using a magnetometer.
South African-Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn, president of SpaceIL, who has donated $27 million to the enterprise, was extremely excited: "The launch of the first Israeli spacecraft will fill Israel, in its 70th year, with pride".
Lacking the resources of those superpowers, SpaceIL turned to private donors to fund the project.
"This is a tremendous project", Kahn said. Once the mission is accomplished, the developer said the spacecraft will remain on the moon as a "symbol of Israeli success".
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"As soon as the spacecraft reaches the landing point it will be completely autonomous", Anteby said. However, Google announced in March that the competition had expired, with the $20 million grand prize remaining unclaimed. "When the rocket is launched into space, we will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon", stated Moris Khan, the primary investor in the SpaceIL mission.
With its 585 kilograms, two meters in diameter and a meter and a half high, the Israeli spacecraft will be the smallest to ever land on the moon, Ido Anteby, the CEO of the nonprofit SpaceIL said on Tuesday. Because it always faces away from the Earth, it is impossible without this system in place to get signals back from the far side of the moon. The data will be transmitted to the IAI control room during the two days following the landing.
Mr. Josef Weiss, IAI CEO concluded that as one who has personally brought the collaboration with SpaceIL to IAI, he regards the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon as an example of the awesome capabilities one can reach in civilian space activity.
A goal of the mission is to spark interest in space among young Israelis.
Initially, this plan was part of a competition that Google set up called the Lunar XPrize. To date, 50,000 children have been reached by SpaceIL volunteers in classrooms around the world.