Israeli Pride Swells as Moon Mission Successfully Lifts Off

Pablo Tucker
February 24, 2019

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. The company designed and built the 1,322-pound lunar lander called "Beresheet", which means "in the beginning" (the first words in the Bible).

On Thursday night, the nation came a step closer to that goal with the launch of the Beresheet spacecraft - meaning "Genesis" in Hebrew - which blasted into space on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Israel advanced in the space race Friday as a company sent the first-ever private spacecraft to land on the moon. "The superpowers who managed to land a spacecraft on the Moon have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding", IAI said in an earlier statement.

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

The Israeli spacecraft will be the smallest to land on the moon: a meter and a half high, two meters in diameter, carrying fuel that accounts for 75% of its weight; 600 kilograms. The first soft landing on the moon came in 1966; executed by both the both Russian Federation and the United States; there was not another unmanned soft landing until China launched Chang'e 3 in 2013.

Beresheet will travel approximately 4 million miles on its journey, circling the earth multiple times to gain speed before it slingshots toward the moon.

The competition was canceled in January 2018 when none of the five teams left in the competition was able to meet the March deadline for a launch. They were deployed shortly after, at 44 minutes after launch. What's even more fantastic about SpaceIL is that all three of these nation-state operations that have made it to the moon so far have had enormous capital backing up their missions. A time capsule is aboard the lander - which includes a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003 - as well as a lunar library containing 30 million pages on a disk from the US -based Arch Mission Foundation. According to Harel, the landing process should take about 20 minutes and end with Beresheet touching down on the moon's near side, in a region called Mare Serenitatis, or the "Sea of Serenity"-near the landing sight of Apollo 17, the last lunar landing mission to launch from Cape Canaveral".

Previous missions have reached the moon much faster.

Americans are the only ones to have walked on the lunar surface, but have not been there since 1972. Watching the launch with his wife Sara at the IAI Control Center in Yehud, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "The State of Israel is a rising world power - rising to the moon".

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