Israel launches spacecraft in SpaceX’s first private mission to moon

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Last month Israel Aerospace Industries partnered with German spacecraft builder OHB to offer a version of the lander it built for SpaceIL to the European Space Agency for commercial delivery of payloads to the moon's surface.

Once it arrives, Beresheet, which competed in the Google Lunar XPrize, will be Israel's first spacecraft and the world's first privately funded spacecraft to reach the moon, SpaceX says.

Its Falcon 9 launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, where a trio of spacecraft, including a moon lander, came along for the ride. The company designed and built the 1,322-pound lunar lander called "Beresheet", which means "in the beginning" (the first words in the Bible).

The forty-day voyage culminates with a landing scheduled for April 11.

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.

It's expected to take about two months for the lander to reach the moon.

The US Air Force also has a small research spacecraft aboard the rocket, for a one-year mission in orbit around Earth.

The rocket is set to carry Indonesia's first high-throughput satellite, the Nusantara Satu, into orbit.

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Israeli spacecraft "Beresheet" was successfully launched at 3.45am this morning Israel-time from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

After launching from Cape Canaveral, the spacecraft will make several lunar orbits before attempting a soft landing on the moon's surface.

SpaceX said it planned to land the first stage on a droneship, which will land in the Atlantic Ocean, following separation. It will be the first private landing on the moon.

So far, only Russian Federation, the United States and China have made the 384,000-kilometer (239,000-mile) journey and landed spacecraft on the Moon. As we better understand Israel's capabilities and the innovative work of their private industry, we know they'll be an even stronger worldwide partner in the future, one vital to the success of extending commercial space to the Moon and eventually on to Mars and beyond.

As one of the commenters on a YouTube clip of the launch noted, look how much tiny, resource-strained Israel has managed to achieve in the short 70 years of its modern existence? Once it lands, the probe will conduct various experiments on the Moon's surface, testing its magnetism and geology.

The launch was the second of the year for SpaceX.

SpaceIL said it hoped Beresheet would help inspire Israel's defence-focused space program to pursue more science missions by way of an "Apollo effect", referring to the manned lunar exploration program that became NASA's chief goal in the 1960s and early '70s.