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Feb 13, 2019: Israel launches world’s first private lunar lander

UNITED STATES - Israel’s SpaceIL company plans to launch the world’s first private lunar lander aboard a SpaceX Falcon rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The lunar spacecraft, dubbed Beresheet, will carry a digital time capsule with Israeli national memorabilia.

If the mission succeeds, Israel would become the fourth country to land a craft on the Moon, after the United States, Soviet Union and China.

No projected arrival date has been given for the small craft, which is roughly the size of a washing machine. The vessel will transmit photos and also data on the Moon’s ever-changing magnetism for two days before its systems shut down. The spacecraft and time capsule will remain on the lunar surface indefinitely.

The nonprofit SpaceIL and government-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) manufactured the spacecraft.

SpaceIL’s mission to the Moon began as part of the Google Lunar X Prize competition. It offered a first prize of US $30 million to the privately-funded team that could put a robotic spacecraft on the moon, move the craft 500 meters and have it beam high-definition photos and video back to Earth. No team was able to make a launch attempt to reach the Moon by the Mar 31 deadline in 2018, and the Google Lunar X Prize competition ended with no winner.

SpaceIL continued on with its mission, largely funded by South African-Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn and other donors.

The time capsule placed on board consists of three small discs that include digital files of memorabilia such as Israel’s declaration of independence and national anthem, Hebrew songs, the Wayfarer’s Prayer (the Jewish prayer for a safe journey), paintings by Israeli children, the Israeli flag, the Bible, Israeli literature, and other tokens of the country’s heritage, according to the statement.

#22960 Updated: 01/17/2019 UPDATED WITH LAUNCH DATE

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