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Israeli Spacecraft Aims for Historic Moon Landing: Date ReleasedSpaceIL's unmanned probe will blast off before year's end; touchdown scheduled for February 13, 2019, when it will unfurl national flag, conduct experiments
Save the date. On February 13, 2019, an Israeli-built unmanned spacecraft is expected to land on the moon, having blasted off from Earth two months earlier, project managers said at a news conference Tuesday.
If all goes well, the SpaceIL spider-like craft will give Israel entry into the exclusive club of just three nations that have so far achieved a controlled landing on the moon’s surface.
The probe will be launched sometime in December from Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, officials said during the media event, held at an Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) space technology site in Yehud. It is scheduled to land on February 13, 2019.
The project, begun seven years ago as part of a Google technology contest to land a small probe on the moon, was conducted together with IAI.
“We will put the Israeli flag on the moon,” said Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL.
“As soon as the spacecraft reaches the landing point it will be completely autonomous,” Anteby said. “The motor will brake the craft and it will reach the ground at zero speed for a soft landing.”
“In the first stage the Israeli flag will be put on the moon,” he said. “During the landing the craft will photograph the landing area with stills and video and even record itself.”
The spacecraft will carry out a Weizmann Institute of Science experiment to measure the moon’s magnetic field, finishing its mission within two days.
SpaceIL’s vehicle is just two meters in diameter and 1.5 meters tall standing on its four legs. It weighs 600 kilograms, making it the smallest craft to touchdown on the moon.
Israeli billionaire philanthropist and SpaceIL President Morris Kahn, who donated some $27 million to the project, told a gathering of journalists: “We are making history.”
The idea, he said, is to inspire youth in Israel to take up science studies and to have the impact the Apollo lunar mission had in 1969, when astronauts landed on the moon, with people remembering forever where they were on that day.
“This is a tremendous project,” Khan said. “When the rocket is launched into space, we will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon.”
The Israeli government has promised to fund 10% of the project, he said, but the money still has to come. “The government should recognize that space is very important for the future,” he said.
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