Israel revealed on Tuesday, July 10, a plan to launch its first moon mission in December aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Israel Aims For The Moon
The country hopes to become the fourth country to land on the moon after the United States, Russia, and China. The plan is for the lunar spacecraft to land on the moon on Feb. 13, 2019, after a two-month journey from Earth.
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 winner.
SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby said that the spacecraft is the smallest to ever land on the moon. It measures about 2 meters in diameter and stands just a meter and a half high. The spacecraft will weigh 585 kilograms at launch but will land on the lunar surface with only 180 kilos.
The project took eight years of collaborative efforts. Building the spacecraft cost $95 million to date.
The initiative aims to raise interest in space and science among Israelis and encourage the younger generations to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professions.
Organizers said that the spacecraft carrying the Israeli flag will take photos and videos of the landing site as well as record itself during the landing. It will measure the magnetic field on the moon using a magnetometer.
"As soon as the spacecraft reaches the landing point it will be completely autonomous," Anteby said. "The motor will brake the craft and it will reach the ground at zero speed for a soft landing."
SpaceIL president Morris Kahn expressed his excitement for the project, saying that the launch of the spacecraft is a national accomplishment that can put the country in the world's space map.
"The accomplishment we will soon achieve is the fruit of intensive labor of many years, of the best of minds," said IAI CEO Yossi Weiss.
"Reaching such an achievement specifically during Israel's 70th year symbolizes how far we have come, and particularly the endless accomplishments that we can still achieve."
Other Planned Lunar Missions
Earlier this year, the Indian Space Research Organization also announced the launch of its second lunar mission that will explore the south side of the moon. China is now making the necessary preparations amid plans to send astronauts to the surface of the moon by year 2036. Russia also expressed an interest to send cosmonauts to the moon as part of a modern lunar program.