Thursday, 21 March, 2019

Why we're so obsessed with travelling to the moon

SpaceX Falcon 9 Falcon 9 rocket components displayed at an event in Hawthorne California | Patrick T. Fallon Bloomberg
Cary Marshall | 24 February, 2019, 15:25

The robotic lander, dubbed Beresheet (which means "Genesis" or "in the beginning" in Hebrew) lifted off at 8:45 pm EST on top of a Falcon 9 rocket.

"Beresheet is the first spacecraft to land on the Moon as a result of a private initiative, rather than a government".

Once Beresheet completes its lunar mission, Israel would join superpowers China, Russia, and the United States in landing a spacecraft on the moon. A half-hour after liftoff, the lunar lander was free and on its way. It will be the first private landing on the moon. SpaceIL was later named one of five finalists for the prize, along with Cape Canaveral-based Moon Express.

But that didn't stop SpaceIL. Once it lands, the probe will conduct various experiments on the Moon's surface, testing its magnetism and geology. But Israel's privately funded lunar lander - a first not just for Israel but commercial space - is generating the buzz.

SpaceIL has no plans for future explorations of its own beyond Beresheet and "will not continue after this mission", Harel said.

The Falcon 9 was on its third flight having launched the Iridium-7 mission in July 2018 and the SAOCOM 1A mission the following October. But rideshares don't always put the little sats into their optimal orbits.

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"By what we're doing and achieving with the limited resources that we have, and the limited finances we had - I think we showed the Israeli ingenuity", said Kahn. "We have to consider the requirements from the other payloads on the rocket". The other two items taken up were an Indonesian communications satellite and a US Air Force experimental satellite.

After making its way to the moon, Beresheet will have to perform a soft landing on the surface, after which it will photograph everything it can and study the surrounding environment.

During its descent, the spacecraft will measure the Moon's magnetic field, potentially revealing new details about iron core deep below, reports The New York Times. Both were deployed a few minutes after the lunar lander was released into orbit.

Beresheet is helping to blaze a trail for low-priced private space exploration.

NASA's Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s took about three days to get astronauts to the moon 240,000 miles (386,000 kilometers) away, but they used monstrous Saturn V rockets. SpaceIL officials say that the data collected will help scientists learn more about the creation and evolution of the moon.

SpaceIL's founding was typical of Start-Up Nation: A group of friends hatched the project over drinks at a Tel Aviv-area bar in response to a Google technology competition with a $20 million prize, co-founder Yonatan Winetraub said. Up to this point, the moon has been a destination that only wealthy and powerful nations could reach.

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