Israel’s first moon lander launches on SpaceX rocket

Pablo Tucker
February 22, 2019

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

JewishPress.com readers are invited to watch LIVE ONLINE as the robotic lunar lander lifts off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Previously, only the USA, U.S.S.R, and China have landed spacecraft on the moon.

Previous missions have reached the moon much faster.

If the Beresheet mission survives a weeks-long trip to the lunar surface, it will make Israel the fourth country ever to pull off a moon landing. After that, it will take a month to reach an orbit 250 miles from Earth, and then continue to circle farther out until it is captured into a lunar orbit.

Israel's state-owned satellite manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries built the Beresheet lander.


The 5-foot-tall Beresheet lander will be tucked into the rocket with Nusantara Satu.

Piggybacking on the launch was the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) S5 experimental small spacecraft, which will carry out a one-year mission tracking objects in geostationary orbit, and SpaceIL's lunar spacecraft, Beresheet.

At the end of its brief mission, mission controllers plan to simply shut down the spacecraft, according to SpaceIL officials, leaving Beresheet as the latest piece of human hardware to litter the lunar landscape.

"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. The 1,290-pound (585-kg) spacecraft was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with $100 million furnished nearly entirely by private donors.

And, in yet another remarkable feat, this flight marks the third for this Falcon 9 first stage booster, which previously launched twice previous year. NASA has a laser reflector aboard Beresheet and is offering its Deep Space Network for communication.


Beresheet is created to spend just two to three days using on-board instruments to photograph its landing site and measure the moon's magnetic field.

SpaceX also landed the rocket's first stage on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean minutes after the launch.

They founded SpaceIL in 2011 and, in 2015, scored a launch contract with SpaceX.

The space company has previously re-used first-stage and second-stage rocket boosters, in addition to one of its previously flown Dragon capsules.


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