Published: Fri, February 22, 2019
Science | By Michele Flores

Israel set to join elite lunar club with first mission to moon

Israel set to join elite lunar club with first mission to moon

If successful, Israel will be only the fourth country ever to land a spacecraft successfully on the moon.

The Air Force Research Laboratory's S5 satellite will travel with the Nusantara Satu satellite close to geostationary orbit before deploying from the parent satellite.

The other three nations to have carried out controlled "soft" landings on the moon are the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China.

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

"We have a vision to show off Israel's best qualities to the entire world", Sylvan Adams, a SpaceIL donor and Canadian-Israeli philanthropist, said during a pre-launch briefing in Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday (Feb. 20).

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 objective in the 1960s and early '70s. After deploying its two payloads into orbit, the Falcon 9's first stage returned to Earth and aced a landing (the third for this booster) on SpaceX's drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You", which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

A communications satellite for Indonesia was the main cargo aboard the Falcon 9 rocket, which illuminated the sky as it took flight. Created to radically improve the ease and speed of Falcon 9 booster reuse, Block 5 debuted in May 2018 and has now launched 12 times, with half of those missions flying on flight-proven boosters.

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Beresheet took off from from Cape Canaveral on one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets at 8:45 Eastern time tonight. The 1,290-pound (585-kg) spacecraft was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with $100 million furnished nearly entirely by private donors. Previously, only the U.S., U.S.S.R, and China have landed spacecraft on the moon.

SpaceX described the booster recovery - its 34th - as facing "some of the most challenging reentry conditions to date". 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.

The mission is part of renewed global interest in the Moon, sometimes called the "eighth continent" of the Earth, and comes 50 years after American astronauts first walked on the lunar surface. It aims to put a craft with a rover onto the Moon's surface to collect data.

For this launch, SpaceX plans to reuse a rocket booster that's already flown twice.

Nusantara Satu is a 4,100-kilogram communications satellite equipped with C- and Ku-band transponders, mainly for broadband connectivity.

"In religion and ethics, science and scholarship, we have long reached for the stars; now we are rightfully reaching the moon".

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