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13 July 2018, 04:12 | Edward Lowe
The first Israeli lunar spacecraft is to be launched in December from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
It will be launched via a rocket from Elon Musk's SpaceX firm this December, and it's expected to land on the moon on February 13, 2019. At 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds), it will be the smallest spaceship so far to make a lunar landing.
An Israeli non-profit group plans to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon in February in the first landing of its kind since 2013.
But the SpaceIL team hopes that putting an Israeli-made module on the moon could help maintain Israel's technological momentum for years to come.
SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the global Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) competition, which had offered a prize of $20 million to the first privately funded team to put a robot down on the moon, move it at least 1,650 feet and have it beam high-definition photos and video to Earth.
Three countries have landed missions on the moon: the US, Russia and China. The spacecraft will weigh 585 kilograms at launch but will land on the lunar surface with only 180 kilos. The accomplishment they will soon achieve is the fruit of intensive labor of many years, of the best of minds. IAI will continue doing all that is needed in the coming months to ensure the success of this national mission.
Private donations mostly paid for the project, including from the American businessman and Jewish philanthropist Sheldon Adelson.
IAI, which is the home of Israel's space activity, has been a full partner in this project from its inception.
"As we went deeper into the project and the more people joined, we understood its complexity", Damari said.
The dimensions of the spacecraft are 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) high and 2 meters (6.5 feet) in diameter. Instead, it will be sent up as a secondary payload atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on a yet to be determined date in December.
SpaceIL CEO Dr. Ido Anteby revealed the spacecraft's course to the moon during the press event. From the moment of its launch, it will begin a long, complex flight course.
At 60,000 kilometers (37,000 miles) above Earth the spacecraft will deploy.
Challenges must still be overcome, including compensating for the craft's smaller fuel capacity, Inbar said.
The first stage of the lander will hoist the Israeli flag on the moon, he explained.
The probe weighs approximately 600kg on Earth but that weight will drop down to 180kg in the Moon's lower gravity pull.
Upon its landing, the spacecraft plans to take photos and video of the landing site while also measuring the moon's magnetic field as part of a Weizmann Institute scientific experiment.
On the moon, the vessel will transmit data to the control centre at IAI for two days before its systems shut down.
SpaceIL was the only Israeli company involved in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, which carried a £15million ($20million) victory prize until it was scrapped in March 2018 due to contestants' missed deadlines. Google Lunar prize was intended as reward for the first commercial organization which will land a spacecraft on the Moon.
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