Israel to launch its first spacecraft to the moon

Israel to launch its first spacecraft to the moon

The Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL company plans to send to the moon unmanned spacecraft at the end of December. SpaceIL was the first of 16 Google Lunar XPRIZE competitors to sign a launch contract and one of only five teams to reach the finals.

The spacecraft's design and development process, which involved intensive work of engineers, scientists and team members, began in 2013 and continued until past year, when its construction at the IAI MABAT Plant commenced. The spacecraft comes equipped with a camera set to take pictures of the moon's surface as well as of an Israeli flag embedded on the craft itself "as a symbolic flag planting of sorts", he explained.

So far it has spent about $88.5m, much of which it has received from the South African-born Israeli billionaire businessmen Morris Kahn. The project took nearly eight years with an expenditure of $95 million till now, revealed by the trusted sources from Israel.

"They hadn't really thought about the financial side", Kahn said, relaying how he gave them an initial grant of $100,000, with his support growing with the project to largely cover the $95 million project. "It is a national accomplishment that will put us on the world's space map". It will take about two months for the spacecraft to reach its destination after launch. However, Google announced in March that the competition had expired, with the $20 million grand prize remaining unclaimed.

SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby said that the spacecraft is the smallest to ever land on the moon.

Speaking at press conference, SpaceIL's CEO Ido Anteby said his country's flag will be planted on the moon. Other countries also have groups in the competition, including the United States, Japan and India. "And this is going to be the first privately run mission to the Moon".

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On the moon, the vessel will transmit data to the control centre at IAI for two days before its systems shut down.

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 wonderful capabilities one can reach in civilian space activity.

At the time, SpaceIL announced it will continue its efforts to complete the mission.

A goal of the mission is to spark interest in space among young Israelis.

SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the worldwide Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. With the help of a broad network of volunteers, SpaceIL has already made presentations to about 900,000 children nationwide.

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