Israel's first Moon mission blasts off from Florida

Israel's first spacecraft will be launched by the US-based private firm SpaceX
Israel's first spacecraft will be launched by the US-based private firm SpaceX

An unmanned rocket took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Thursday night carrying Israel's Beresheet spacecraft, aiming to make history twice: as the first private-sector landing on the Moon, and the first from the Jewish state.

The 585-kilogram (1,290-pound) Beresheet, which means "Genesis" in Hebrew, lifted off at 8:45 pm (0145 GMT Friday) atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the private US-based SpaceX company of entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Takeoff was followed live back in Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu watching alongside engineers at the control center of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

So far, only Russia, the United States and China have made the 384,000-kilometer (239,000-mile) journey and landed spacecraft on the Moon.

"This is a very proud moment," Netanyahu's office quoted him as saying.

"True, along with China, Russia and the US, we constitute about one-third of the world's population, but our contribution is vast, regardless of our small size. We are giants."

"While this is a great step for Israel, it is a huge step for Israeli technology," Netanyahu said.

The Israeli craft was placed in Earth orbit, from where it will use its own engine to undertake a seven-week trip to reach the Moon and touch down on April 11 in a large plain.

The rocket also contains an Indonesian satellite and a satellite of the US Air Force Research Laboratory.

Israel's first lunar mission
Factfile on Israel's first moon mission set for launch

The mission is part of renewed global interest in the Moon, sometimes called the "eighth continent" of the Earth, and comes 50 years after American astronauts first walked on the lunar surface.

China's Chang'e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon on January 3, after a probe sent by Beijing made a Lunar landing elsewhere in 2013.

"This is history in the making - and it's live! Israel is aiming for the #moon and you're all invited to watch," said a Twitter message from SpaceIL, the non-profit organization that designed the Israeli craft.

It was backed notably by businessman and philanthropist Morris Kahn, who financed the development of a craft. "Make us proud," he said Thursday.

For Israel, the landing itself is the main mission, but the spacecraft also carries a scientific instrument to measure the lunar magnetic field, which will help understanding of the Moon's formation.

Technically, it is far from a trivial mission.

After its initial boost from the Falcon 9, the Beresheet's British engine will have to make several ignitions to place the spacecraft on the correct trajectory to the Moon.

When it arrives, its landing gear must cushion the descent onto the lunar surface to prevent Beresheet from crashing.

A scientist shows the time capsule containing a Bible, children's drawings, Israeli songs, memories of a Holocaust survivor and
A scientist shows the time capsule containing a Bible, children's drawings, Israeli songs, memories of a Holocaust survivor and the blue-and-white Israeli flag that will be carried to the Moon by the Beresheet spacecraft
India plans to follow

Beresheet carries a "time capsule" loaded with digital files containing a Bible, children's drawings, Israeli songs, memories of a Holocaust survivor and the blue-and-white Israeli flag.

At a cost of $100 million, "this is the lowest-budget spacecraft to ever undertake such a mission. The superpowers who managed to land a spacecraft on the Moon have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding," IAI said.

"Beresheet is the first spacecraft to land on the Moon as a result of a private initiative, rather than a government."

After China earlier this year, and now Israel, India hopes to become the fifth lunar country in the spring with its Chandrayaan-2 mission. It aims to put a craft with a rover onto the Moon's surface to collect data.

Japan plans to send a small lunar lander, called SLIM, to study a volcanic area around 2020-2021.

As for the Americans, who have not been back to the Moon since 1972, a return is now the official policy of NASA, according to guidelines issued by President Donald Trump in 2017.

"This time, when we go to the Moon, we're actually going to stay," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last week.

To achieve this, the US space agency is changing its model and no longer wants to design the missions itself.

NASA, which has installed equipment on Beresheet to upload its signals from the Moon, said last week it aims to land instruments later this year or next year and that it is inviting private sector bids to build and launch the US probes.

The US space agency plans to build a small space station, dubbed Gateway, in the Moon's orbit by 2026, and envisages a manned mission to Mars in the following decade.


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Israel's first lunar mission to launch this week

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Feb 21, 2019
"India plans to follow
Beresheet will carry a "time capsule" loaded with digital files containing a Bible, children's drawings, Israeli songs, memories of a Holocaust survivor and the blue-and-white Israeli flag."

Oh yes, of course, a copy of the Israeli song Havah Nagilah will be included for the "Man-in-the Moon" to sing along.
But why the Israeli flag? With India's plan to also go to the Moon, are all 4 nations thinking of dividing the Moon into 4 quadrants of lunar real estate? There should be only ONE flag on the Moon - the American flag.

Feb 21, 2019
I like the idea of telling the universe about the Holocaust. It was a big deal and cannot be forgotten. Other countries should also do similar things to remember genocides of their people. Need to tell generations that wrong was wrong, is wrong, and will be wrong.

Feb 21, 2019
They should also send up a copy of this:
"
The Armenian Genocide (Armenian: Հայոց ցեղասպանություն,[note 3] Hayots tseghaspanutyun), also known as the Armenian Holocaust,[9] was the Ottoman government's systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians,[note 2] mostly citizens within the Ottoman Empire.[10][11] The starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported from Constantinople (now Istanbul) to the region of Ankara 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders, the majority of whom were eventually murdered. The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases—the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian Desert. Driven forward by military...

Feb 28, 2019
"Beresheet" does not mean "Genesis" in Hebrew. "Bereesheet" means "in the beginning" and is the first word in Hebrew in the first book of the Torah (Bible). This first book, called "Genesis" in English, is called "Bereesheet" in Hebrew.

Feb 28, 2019
I like the idea of telling the universe about the Holocaust. It was a big deal and cannot be forgotten. Other countries should also do similar things to remember genocides of their people. Need to tell generations that wrong was wrong, is wrong, and will be wrong.

What good is howling about the Holocaust, not just at the moon, but also the Universe, when atrocities continue to this day, with some of the worst being perpetrated by none other than the Israelis?

Feb 28, 2019
... with some of the worst being perpetrated by none other than the Israelis?


Go tell that to the Uighurs, women living in Saudi Arabia, members of the LGBTQ community living in Russia or anywhere in the Mid-East other than Israel, and religious minorities in Saudi Arabia.

Feb 28, 2019
I'll bet they try to claim the land.

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