SpaceX Just Launched Israel's Lunar Lander off to the Moon

23 February, 2019, 05:54 | Author: Sidney Guerrero
  • SpaceIL's Beresheet spacecraft undergies tests before the big launch

SpaceIL was established in 2011, aiming to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon.

Israelis swelled with pride overnight as many woke in the predawn hours to watch the Beresheet lunar spacecraft lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida atop a SpaceX rocket. As we better understand Israel's capabilities and the innovative work of their private industry, we know they'll be an even stronger worldwide partner in the future, one vital to the success of extending commercial space to the Moon and eventually on to Mars and beyond.

The two other payloads set for deployment are a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force. The organization was founded by three engineers: Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari, and Yonatan Winetraub, who answered the worldwide challenge presented by Google Lunar XPRIZE: to build, launch and land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon.

SpaceX is now testing a system to recover the fairings of its Falcon 9 rockets.

To date, only three nations have landed on the moon: the United States, Russia and China.

"We thought it's about time for a change, and we want to get little Israel all the way to the moon", said Yonatan Winetraub, co-founder of Israel's SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization behind the effort.

SpaceX has launched an Israeli spacecraft on a history-making trip to the moon.

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The US Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon - the only ones yet achieved - between 1969 and 1972, with about a dozen more robotic landings combined by the Americans and Soviets.

Aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the spacecraft will orbit the Earth after detaching from the launcher, and land on the moon around April 11.

But before it can land, Beresheet must make it to the moon, and its six-week jaunt around the Earth may seem like an odd approach. This means they're sharing their payload with another satellite launching to Earth orbit, and that they can't choose their initial orbit very carefully.

The SpaceIL strategy of gradually raising Beresheet's orbit around Earth, however, helps to keep the lander's price tag low.

But it will have just enough time to carry out its primary objectives: plant an Israeli flag on the moon, measure the moon's magnetic field, study surrounding lunar craters, and of course, take some epic lunar selfies.

Despite the mission being privately funded, NASA is helping with the use of its deep-space communications network to retrieve data and images.

The Israeli team said glare from the sun on the spacecraft's sensors was making it more hard than expected for the spacecraft to orient itself according to the position of the stars as it prepared for its first orbit around the Earth, the first stage of its slow seven-week journey to the moon.

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