Israel plans to launch moon mission on SpaceX rocket this year

The SpaceIL moon landing craft

Determined to continue its race to the moon despite the expiration of the $20 million Google Lunar XPRIZE competition last March, Israel's nonprofit SpaceIL http://www.spaceil.com announced plans to launch its unmanned module on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida in mid-December.

Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL, told a news conference in the Israeli town of Yehud on Tuesday that its probe would be the smallest yet to land on the Moon. President Donald Trump has requested nearly $900 million in new funding for NASA moon missions.

"When the rocket is launched into space, we will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon." .

The craft, unveiled on Tuesday at state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries, stands about 1.5 meters high and weighs 585 kilograms (1,290 pounds).

Although this is an historic national achievement, it is essentially a private initiative by the three SpaceIL founders - Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub - who strived to fulfill the dream of reaching the moon, and registered for the challenging Google Lunar XPRIZE competition.

So far, only the US, Russia and China have landed spacecrafts on the moon.

Once it completes its mission, the spacecraft will remain on the moon, proudly displaying the flag of the State of Israel.

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"I am filled with pride that the first Israeli spacecraft, which is in its final construction and testing phases, will soon be making its way to the moon", said Morris Kahn, SpaceIL president and a founder of Israeli communications and media technology developer Amdocs Ltd.

The project culminated in the design of an Israeli lunar probe, which SpaceIL claimed would launch regardless of the contest's outcome.

In total, the project has cost approximately $95 million. Unlike bigger spacecraft that took four days to reach the moon, the smaller fuel capacity means SpaceIL must take an indirect way, orbiting the Earth to reach the moon, SpaceIL said.

South African-born Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn, who supplied funding for the project, said that he hoped that this mission would create the sort of enthusiasm that greeted the Apollo missions in the United States. 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.

"We have a launch and landing dates!"

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. This way, they will raise interest in space among the people in Israel, and will also encourage young generations to study STEM. "Going to the Moon was a hugely expensive government-run mission". In recent years, SpaceIL has ignited the imagination of about 900,000 children nationwide, with the help of a broad network of volunteers.

Ofer Doron, director of Israeli Aerospace Industry Program with the space craft.

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