Published: Sun, February 24, 2019
Science | By Michele Flores

SpaceX launches moon lander, lands booster despite tough conditions

SpaceX launches moon lander, lands booster despite tough conditions

On the livestream, a SpaceX manufacturing engineer, Jessica Anderson, said: "We do have a successful first-stage landing despite the challenging conditions there".

The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off late Thursday from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Israel will join the ranks of United States, China, and Russian Federation if Beresheet successfully lands on the lunar surface.

Its journey to the moon will take nearly two months, with landing expected on April 11, according to the Israeli Science and Technology Ministry. "The superpowers who managed to land a spacecraft on the Moon have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding", IAI said in an earlier statement.

Throughout the mission, Beresheet will transmit data to the control room in Israel.

As seen from the launch site, the distant glow of the returning booster rocket was visible in the sky just as the moon appeared over the horizon. During SpaceX's live broadcast it was confirmed that SpaceIL had received a signal from the craft and that its landing legs had deployed.

SpaceIL officials have said they hope Beresheet will help inspire Israel's defense-focused space program to pursue more science-oriented missions.

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"We have a vision to show off Israel's best qualities to the entire world", said Canadian-Israeli philanthropist and SpaceIL donor Sylvan Adams.

The four-legged Beresheet, barely the size of a washing machine, will circle Earth in ever bigger loops until it's captured by lunar gravity and goes into orbit around the moon.

It would take almost another 50 years for a third country to perform a soft moon landing, when China's Chang'e 3 did it in 2013.

The $100 million joint venture between SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. was financed mostly by Jewish philanthropists including Morris Kahn, SpaceIL's president and a founder of Amdocs Ltd., and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

The Beresheet mission originally was part of the Google Lunar XPrize competition and even made the final cut before the contest ended past year without a victor.

The organisers made a decision to press ahead on their own, with donations from billionaires as well as schoolchildren.

When it arrives, its landing gear must cushion the descent onto the lunar surface to prevent Beresheet from crashing. Beresheet is only expected to survive on the lunar surface for about two or three days. The spacecraft also has a scientific mission: to measure the moon's magnetic field as part of an experiment carried out in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute.

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