Friday, 22 March, 2019

SpaceX Just Launched Israel's Lunar Lander off to the Moon

SpaceIL team. Courtesy SpaceIL team. Courtesy
Cary Marshall | 23 February, 2019, 20:43

The spacecraft - called Beresheet, Hebrew for Genesis or "In The Beginning" - will take almost two months to reach the moon.

Prior to liftoff, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and SpaceIL prime donor Morris Kahn spoke to a crowd at SpaceIL's mission control center at Israel Aerospace Industries, where a small crowd turned out to see the country's first Moon mission take flight.

The robotic lander is the brainchild of SpaceIL, an Israeli non-profit and Google Lunar X Prize finalist. It was the third mission for the booster, which first flew in July with 10 Iridium Next communications satellites and again in October with a radar satellite for the Argentine space agency CONAE. President Reuven Rivlin hosted a pajama party with schoolchildren, hoping the lunar mission will galvanize science education in Israel the way the Apollo space program did in the US decades earlier.

The Falcon 9 launch vehicle successfully delivered all vehicles into orbit, SpaceX reported later. The lander also has retroreflectors installed by NASA that can bounce back lasers beamed from Earth to get an accurate measurement of the distance between our planet and its natural satellite. Once the spacecraft lands, which is expected happen sometime in April, the mission will only last a few days as the electronics are not created to handle the rising surface temperatures from the sun, according to the Times.

Israel-based organization SpaceIL had its lander, Beresheet, launched successfully at 8:45 p.m. on February 21, starting its 40-day journey to the moon.

Beresheet also will carry a capsule with information on Israel and the Jewish people, and a complete Bible inscribed on a coin the size of a US quarter. A successful lunar surface touchdown will make Israel only the fourth nation ever to accomplish such a feat.

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A flight path directly from Earth to the moon would cover roughly 240,000 miles (386,242 kilometers), but Beresheet will follow a more circuitous route.

About 75% of the Beresheet mass is fuel, which pushes it into a lunar orbit. The trajectory will degrade until a landing on the moon's northern hemisphere can be made.

Once it lands on the moon, the spacecraft carrying the Israeli flag will begin taking photographs of the landing site and a selfie to prove that it has indeed landed on the moon. Beresheet will only be able to run for about three days max once it lands.

The US Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon - the only ones yet achieved - between 1969 and 1972. Data will be relayed via the USA space agency NASA's Deep Space Network to SpaceIL's Israel-based ground station Yehud.

But SpaceIL and IAI pushed ahead, surviving financial challenges to complete the lander. Up to this point, the moon has been a destination that only wealthy and powerful nations could reach.

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