Published: Sat, February 23, 2019
Research | By Wilma Wheeler

Photos From SpaceX’s 70th Launch of Lunar Lander for Israel

Photos From SpaceX’s 70th Launch of Lunar Lander for Israel

Lifting off at 8:45 p.m. EST Feb. 21 (01:45 GMT Feb. 22), 2019, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40, the Falcon 9 rocket lit up the night sky in Central Florida. The 1,290-pound (585-kilogram) spacecraft was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with $100 million furnished nearly entirely by private donors. The lander, whose name is Hebrew for "Genesis", began a two month journey to the moon using its own propulsion.

The rocket's two other payloads were a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the US Air Force.

The robotic lander is the brainchild of SpaceIL, an Israeli non-profit and Google Lunar X Prize finalist.

"This is history in the making - and it's live!"

Beresheet can not fly directly to the moon, SpaceIL officials have said.

"The problem with that is, it doesn't allow us to choose the orbit completely", says Yonathan Winetraub, one of the founders of SpaceIL.

"This is the beginning of Israel's story in deep space. whether this succeeds or fails", SpaceIL president and billionaire high-tech developer Morris Kahn, who invested $US44 million of his own money into the Beresheet project, said.

Other partners are IAI, Israel's space agency its Ministry of Science and Technology.

Once deployed, the spacecraft will enter a gradually widening Earth orbit that will eventually bring the probe within the moon's gravitational pull, setting the stage for a series of additional maneuvers leading to an automated touchdown.

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

Once Beresheet completes its lunar mission, Israel would join superpowers China, Russia, and the United States in landing a spacecraft on the moon. If the mission gets scrubbed because of wind, rain, or technical issues, SpaceX will have another chance tomorrow to try again.

Falcon 9 will drop off the lander at about 60,000km.

When it arrives, its landing gear must cushion the descent onto the lunar surface to prevent Beresheet from crashing. The spacecraft also carries a disc provided by the Arch Mission Foundation that is a compendium of human knowledge along with a time capsule containing Israeli cultural symbols and a Bible.

At a cost of $100 million, "this is the lowest-budget spacecraft to ever undertake such a mission". The spacecraft also has a scientific mission: to measure the moon's magnetic field as part of an experiment carried out in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute.

SpaceX - the Elon Musk-created firm - wants to make the first privately-built spacecraft to reach the moon.

SpaceX launched its first private moon landing mission on Thursday evening.

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