On Monday, Dec. 17, SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization from Israel, suspended the launch of what would be the first private spacecraft to land on the moon.
SpaceIL Suspends December Launch
Officials from the organization, together with its project partner, the Israel Aerospace Industry, announced that "Beresheet" (or Genesis) will instead lift off in Cape Canaveral, Florida in February. SpaceX's Falcon rocket will propel the lander in Florida.
SpaceIL said it has no control over the delay. Officials said that SpaceX moved the launch without explanation. The lunar lander was initially scheduled to lift off later this month.
On Monday, officials also presented a time capsule that will fly onboard the lander. The capsule holds pictures of the Israeli public, drawings by Israeli children, and other national memorabilia. The capsule also has stories from Holocaust survivors.
"We hope that far in the future, when travel to the moon is as common as trans-Atlantic travel, that children will be able to understand the lives of their Israeli ancestors through this archive on the moon," stated SpaceIL cofounder Yonatan Winetraub.
Israel's Lunar Ambition
Aside from becoming the first spacecraft from a private corporation to land on the moon, "Beresheet" will also be Israel's first-time to venture into Earth's natural satellite. With February's launch, Israel will become the fourth country after the United States, Russia, and China to reach the moon.
It would take two months for the $88-million spacecraft before it arrives in its destination.
Upon arrival, SpaceIL said that the first thing that the "Beresheet" will do is to take photos and videos of its landing site. It will also immediately measure the moon's magnetic field and beam back data to ground control within two days.
The mission is part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE, an international competition which challenged private companies to land a spacecraft on the moon. The competition, however, was scrapped when it became clear than none of the contestants will be able to make the March deadline.
However, SpaceIL vowed to continue the mission in the hopes of setting off the "Apollo effect" that will encourage the next generation of Israeli children to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).