Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Israel announces mission to land spacecraft on the Moon

SpaceIL is backed mainly by private donors, including USA casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and billionaire Morris Kahn who co-founded Amdocs, one of Israel's biggest high-tech companies. The 585kg landing craft will piggyback on a SpaceX Falcon rocket to enter Earth's orbit, then slingshot around the planet several times to reach the moon.

Ofer Doron, head of IAI's space division, said Israel was "going to show the way for the rest of the world" to send a spacecraft to the Moon at a reasonable cost.

Israeli billionaire and investor Morris Kahn (left) answers journalists' questions in front of a Israeli Aerospace Industries spacecraft during a news conference Tuesday to announce its launch to the moon, in Yehud, Eastern Tel Aviv. Kahn, a businessman and philanthropist, took it upon himself to lead this project and bring it to its completion, and regards it as his personal mission. Over the years, additional partners from the private sector, from government companies and from the academia have joined as well. The measurements are intended for research conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science-UCLA.

So far, only the US, Russia and China have landed spacecrafts on the moon.

The spacecraft's design and development process, which involved intensive work of engineers, scientists and team members, began in 2013 and continued until previous year, when its construction at the IAI MABAT Plant commenced. It measures about 2 meters in diameter and stands just a meter and a half high. Its maximum speed will reach more than 10 km per second (36,000 kilometers, or almost 22,370 miles, per hour). He explained that SpaceIL will test the spacecraft through October, and in November, the company will deliver it to the Cape Canaveral launch site in Florida. It will be the secondary payload, launched with other satellites.

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Along with Kahn, the Israeli Space Agency and USA megadonor casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson are funding SpaceIL.

The opportunity to win $30 million through the competition ended in March, but now continues without a cash prize. It will take about two months for the spacecraft to reach its destination after launch.

Its first task, however, will be to plant an Israeli flag on the moon, organisers said. The spacecraft will weigh 585 kilograms at launch but will land on the lunar surface with only 180 kilos. Concurrently, the non-profit is continuing its efforts to raise the funds necessary to complete this mission.

The initiative aims to raise interest in space and science among Israelis and encourage the younger generations to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professions.

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