Israel Plans to Land Unmanned Spacecraft on Moon in February

Israel Plans to Land Unmanned Spacecraft on Moon in February

The project began when young engineers - Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub - chose to build a spacecraft and take part in the Lunar Xprize competition sponsored by Google, which originally included a $20 million prize for the first group of contestants to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon. "We worked together with the IAI team and SpaceIL team on very sophisticated engineering to get [it] all the way to the moon". President Donald Trump has requested nearly $900 million in new funding for NASA moon missions.

The lunar landing would make Israel the fourth country - after Russian Federation, the United States and China - to put a craft on the surface of the moon. "It's a small, smart spacecraft, it has a two meters diameter, its height is about 1.5 meters (3.2 feet), it weighs 600 kilograms (1,300 lbs), and will land on the Moon at the weight of 180 kilograms (396 lbs)".

The space agency will launch its lunar probe onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket by the end of the current year, with plans to land on the moon by mid-February 2019.

SpaceIL's project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which offered $30m (£23m) in prizes to inspire people to develop low-priced methods of robotic space exploration.

The unmanned mission is a joint effort between private company Israel Aerospace Industries and nonprofit organization SpaceIL.

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"After eight challenging years, I am filled with pride that the first Israeli spacecraft, which is in its final construction and testing phases, will soon be making its way to the moon", said Kahn.

SpaceIL and the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries plan to launch their unmanned craft in December hoping to become the first non-governmental entity to land a spacecraft on the moon. Building the spacecraft cost $95 million to date.

SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the worldwide Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. "It is a national accomplishment that will put us on the world's space map". The company undertook to launch its spacecraft this year, and has now announced its timetable for doing so. It will begin orbiting Earth on an elliptical path.

In addition to taking photos on the surface of the moon, the spacecraft will measure its magnetic field at the landing site, using a magnetometer installed on it. Upon landing, the craft will relay photographs and collect data about the moon's magnetism for research by Israel's Weizmann Institute.

The spacecraft's design and development process, which involved intensive work of engineers, scientists and team members, began in 2013 and continued until previous year, when its construction at the IAI MABAT Plant commenced.

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