Israel to land first spacecraft on moon in 2019

Moon landing SpaceIL lunar probe

SPACEIL GETTYMoon landing SpaceIL's lunar probe will launch by the end of the year

The 585 kilogram (1,289 pound) landing craft will piggyback on a SpaceX Falcon rocket to enter Earth's orbit, then slingshot around the planet several times to reach the moon. It will also measure the moon's magnetic field at the landing site using a magnetometer.

If successful, SpaceIL's mission will make Israel the fourth country in the world to "soft land" a probe on the surface of the Moon - after the former Soviet Union, the United States and China. "When the rocket is launched into space, we will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon", stated Moris Khan, the primary investor in the SpaceIL mission.

The unmanned mission is a collaboration between privately owned Israel Aerospace Industries and the non-profit organization SpaceIL, which participated in the Google Lunar XPrize competition that ended in March with no ultimate victor.

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"We will put the Israeli flag on the moon" said Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL.

A Falcon 9 rocket built by SpaceX will carry the craft to the moon from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on February 13, 2019.

SpaceIL, in collaboration with the state-run Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), began working on the spacecraft as part of the Google Lunar X PRIZE, which offered a total of $30 million in prizes to "challenge and inspire engineers, entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world to develop low-priced methods of robotic space exploration".

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"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. Construction of the spacecraft began two years later in facilities provided by Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd.

From left, Aviad Shmaryahu of the Israel Space Agency; SpaceIL founders Yariv Bash and Kfir Damari; philanthropist Morris Kahn, SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby; and head of IAI's space division Ofer Doron.

The project, which started in 2011 as part of Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) to land a small probe on the moon, has yet to receive IAI funding, despite the promise to provide a 10 percent contribution. The company undertook to launch its spacecraft this year, and has now announced its timetable for doing so.

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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 incredible capabilities one can reach in civilian space activity. This process will be executed autonomously by the spacecraft's navigation control system, project team members said. This will take about two days to finish.

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