Israel's first moon mission blasted off from Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Friday.
Dubbed Beresheet, the Hebrew word for "Genesis," the lander is now making its two-month journey to land on the moon. Its creators expect it will land on the lunar surface on April 11.
World's First Privately Funded Moon Mission
Beresheet is the world's first privately funded lunar mission, but while this is not a government-led initiative, state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) corporation joined as a partner.
SpaceIL, the nonprofit organization behind the effort, participated in the Google Lunar XPrize, which offered a $30 million reward for a privately funded team to land an automated spacecraft. The contest closed without a winner, but SpaceIL decided to continue and get funding from elsewhere.
SpaceIL Kfir Damari cofounder said that the main focus of the mission is to show kids that science is fun and exciting and to inspire them to pursue the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
If the mission is successful, Israel will join the ranks of the United States, China, and Russia to have made a controlled landing on the moon.
"We have a vision to show off Israel's best qualities to the entire world," said Canadian-Israeli philanthropist and SpaceIL donor Sylvan Adams. "This is a remarkable thing because we continue to demonstrate our ability to punch far above our weight and to show off our skills, our innovation [and] our creativity in tackling any difficult problem that could possibly exist."
Once Beresheet touches down on the lunar surface, it will conduct scientific investigations that include measuring the magnetic field of the moon to help researchers understand how the natural satellite formed.
The spacecraft brought an instrument built by the Weizmann Institute of Science, which will measure the moon's magnetic fields as it approaches its landing site at a lava plain called Mare Serenitatis, or the Sea of Serenity. The data may provide information about the moon's iron core.
The spacecraft likewise has an instrument in a collaboration with NASA. The retroreflector will join other reflectors already placed on the moon by the Apollo missions to measure distances and lunar dynamics.
In an effort to preserve important human knowledge, Beresheet is also installed with a time capsule intended to serve as a backup for human civilization in a safe location off our planet.