Israel's first Moon mission blasts off from Florida

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

It will also bring a time capsule to the Moon, including the Israeli flag, the country's national anthem, "Hatikvah", dictionaries in 27 languages, the Bible, and a children's book about the mission.

SpaceX launched its first private moon landing mission on Thursday evening. The lander will use a thruster from Norwegian supplier Nammo to reach the moon, and to conduct a 500-meter "hop" to another location on the lunar surface. Eastern, deploying the Beresheet lunar lander 33 minutes later, and the Nusantara Satu telecom satellite with the S5 experimental smallsat almost 45 minutes after liftoff.

"Initial data was received in the control room in Yehud [Israel], the spacecraft's legs deployed as planned and Beresheet started in-orbit tests while cruising to the moon", Nimrod Sheffer, CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), said in a statement.

It's the third time this booster has been launched and landed, and marks SpaceX's 34th successful landing.

The landing sequence is set to take around 15 minutes and will monitored by a joint group of scientists and engineers from the Israel Space Agency (ISA), the Weizmann Institute of Science, and NASA.

SpaceIL was originally building the Beresheet lander for the Google Lunar X Prize, but continued on with the lander after the contest ended in March 2018 without a victor for the $20 million award.

It will then spend the next two months stretching its elongated orbit to make it all the way to the moon and achieve lunar orbit.

The Nasantara Satu mission lifts off from Cape Canaveral on February 21, 2019, carrying SpaceIL's lunar lander bound for the moon.

In January 2017, SpaceIL became one of the competition's five finalists.

The Israeli team said glare from the sun on the spacecraft's sensors was making it more hard than expected for the spacecraft to orient itself according to the position of the stars as it prepared for its first orbit around the Earth, the first stage of its slow seven-week journey to the moon. 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.

The US Air Force had said there was a 20% chance Falcon 9 would be delayed because of bad weather.

Israel aims to land on the moon after hitching a ride with SpaceX.

After all, the Apollo missions flew directly to the moon, landing less than a week after launch.

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

Lunar surface operations are meant to last just two days. "How much chutzpah is it to get to the moon with $100 million?" Up to this point, the moon has been a destination that only wealthy and powerful nations could reach.

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