Israel has unveiled its plan to launch an unmanned spacecraft to the moon December next year. If successful, Israel would become the world’s fourth country to land on moon – a feat only Russia, the United States and China have achieved.
“After eight challenging years, I am filled with pride that the first Israeli spacecraft, which is in its final construction and testing phases, will soon be making its way to the moon. The launch of the first Israeli spacecraft will fill Israel, in its 70th year, with pride. It’s a national accomplishment that will put us on the world’s space map.” Morris Kahn, president of Israeli nonprofit organization SpaceIL said Tuesday.
The unmanned spacecraft looks like a pod and weighs around 1,300 pounds. It will be launched via a SpaceX rocket and is expected to reach moon on February 13, 2019. Upon arrival, the spacecraft will take images and videos of the landing site, fly around and explore the moon’s magnetic field.
“We’re trying to replicate the Apollo effect in the US.” Kahn said, a reference to US Apollo mission that took first humans to the moon in 1969.
December space launch is a joint venture between SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. The project, however, began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered $30 million to make a launch attempt for reaching the moon and for achieving specific mission milestones. Although the competition ended without a winner, Israel’s team vowed to push forward.
“As we went deeper into the project and the more people joined, we understood its complexity.” Israeli scientist Kfir Damari said.
Israel’s lunar mission is a small but important step in the right direction. The mission’s success could speed up space exploration and inspire nation’s scientific community and general people.
On the moon, the spacecraft is expected to be operational for two days and will transmit data to the control centre at IAI until its systems shut down.