First private spacecraft shoots for the moon
February 19, 2019 - An Israeli nonprofit group is aiming to lead the first privately funded mission to land a probe on the moon, following in the footprints of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. and China.
The mission marks yet another milestone, not only in the history and technical arc of space exploration, but also in how humankind goes about space exploration.
SpaceIL was founded in 2011 to compete in the Google Lunar XPrize, a program that planned to award $30 million to the first privately funded team who could build a spacecraft and land it successfully on the moon. The Google Lunar XPrize contest deadline ended in 2018 without a winner. Undaunted, SpaceIL forged ahead with the development and construction of the spacecraft, and is now ready to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
SpaceIL’s Beresheet – Hebrew for “In the Beginning” is shaped like a round table with four carbon-fibre legs, stands about 1.5 meters tall and weighs 585kg – with fuel accounting for two-thirds of that weight.
It will carry instrumentation to measure the magnetic field of the moon, a laser-reflector provided by NASA and a time-capsule of cultural and historical Israeli artifacts.
In spaceflight, the primary constraint in traveling from place to place is not distance, but the quantity of energy required. The Falcon 9 rocket only carries Beresheet about 10 percent of the total distance to the moon. But it provides nearly 90 percent of the total energy required to get there. Consequently, once lifted from the surface of the Earth, and with a small amount of additional energy from its own propulsion system, Beresheet can boost its own orbit by positioning itself so that it’s captured by the moon’s gravitational pull. This process will take several weeks.
Once landed on the moon, however, the mission may only last a few more days. The lander is not designed for the long haul, but instead will demonstrate advances in technology as well as the business model for a privately funded spacecraft landing on another body in the solar system.
Graphic News Standards