In December, the tiny state of Israel will launch a rocket from Florida and attempt to be the fourth country in the world to reach the moon.
The first three countries were the U.S., Russia, and China.
The 1,322 pound rocket, which will soar toward the moon for two months before its scheduled landing on February 13, 2019, is the brainchild of Israel Aerospace Industries and the nonprofit SpaceIL, and took eight years to create at a cost of $88 million.
As Space.com reports:
The spacecraft will be launched as a secondary payload from Cape Canaveral. It will begin orbiting Earth on an elliptical path. Then, upon receipt of a command from mission control, the craft will enter a higher-altitude elliptical orbit around our planet, which will reach a point near the moon, project team members said.
At this point, the lander will ignite its engines to enter a phase of orbiting the moon prior to attempting a lunar touchdown. This process will be executed autonomously by the spacecraft’s navigation control system, project team members said.
The rocket’s cost was absorbed primarily by private sponsors, including SpaceIL’s president, Morris Kahn, who supplied roughly $27 million, and American philanthropist Sheldon Adelson.
The spacecraft will photograph and videotape the landing site as well as measure the moon’s magnetic field as part of a Weizmann Institute scientific experiment.
Kahn stated, “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, I have experienced numerous challenges in my life, but this was the greatest challenge of all. … The launch of the first Israeli spacecraft will fill Israel, in its 70th year, with pride. It is a national accomplishment that will put us on the world’s space map.”
The CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries, Josef Weiss, echoed, “As one who has personally brought the collaboration with SpaceIL to IAI, I regard the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon as an example of the amazing capabilities one can reach in civilian space activity.”