Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

Israeli moon lander launched by SpaceX expected to land in April

SpaceIL team. Courtesy SpaceIL team. Courtesy
Cary Marshall | 22 February, 2019, 20:10

Israel's non-profit SpaceIL launched its spacecraft from Florida's Cape Canaveral Thursday on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, in a bid to become the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon.

The Falcon 9 lifted off at 8:45 p.m. A half-hour after liftoff, the lunar lander was free and on its way.

But, the spacecraft will take almost two months to reach the moon. SpaceIL co-founder Kfir Damari said, "It is rocket science, but our goal is to show them that it's not magic - it's something they can understand". It will then decrease its orbit until it finally lands on the northern lunar hemisphere sometime in April.

"Israel is a very small country, as small as New Jersey, and we're shooting for the moon, SpaceIL manager of the Beresheet program Yigal Harel said". He said it was thrilling to witness the launch in person and to know Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was watching it live from the control center in Yehud, Israel. The journey to the surface of the moon is expected to take eight weeks.

The Beresheet lander, whose name means "In the beginning" in Hebrew, was build by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). That makes for a much longer trip. On Wednesday, SpaceIL co-founder Yonatan Winetraub spoke of the low-priced nature of the mission, saying, "This is Uber-style space exploration". As well as the Air Force Research Laboratory spacecraft. NASA followed with the Ranger 4 spacecraft in 1962.

SpaceX's first uncrewed demonstration flight, known as Demo-1, is slated to take place at 2:48 am ET on Saturday, March 2.

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Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin quickly offered congratulations following Thursday's launch. "So we have to do it by commercial launch". It will use the agency's deep space telecommunications network to beam data back to its ground team. The organizers chose to press ahead on their own, with donations from billionaires as well as schoolchildren.

Beresheet is created to spend just two to three days using on-board instruments to photograph its landing site and measure the moon's magnetic field. In addition to Kahn, Dr Miriam Adelson, an Israeli-American doctor and philanthropist, and her husband, casino magnate and investor Sheldon Adelson, contributed $US24 million to keep the lunar lander soaring.

If the mission succeeds, it could unlock information the moon's iron core.

Ramon's widow, Rona, was a big supporter of Beresheet; she died of cancer in December.

SpaceX also landed the rocket's first stage on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean minutes after the launch. Launching the refurbished booster for a third time could net SpaceX millions (if not tens of millions) of dollars. Sparks from burning metal were visible in the landing video.

The space company has previously re-used first-stage and second-stage rocket boosters, in addition to one of its previously flown Dragon capsules. No one will be aboard.

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