Israel’s first Moon mission blasts off from Florida

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Israel’s first Moon mission blasts off from Florida

The Israeli spacecraft will be the smallest to land on the moon: a meter and a half high, two meters in diameter, carrying fuel that accounts for 75% of its weight; 600 kilograms. "Its mission is to transmit photos and video of its new home and conduct scientific measurements", said SpaceX.

The U.S. Air Force also has a small research spacecraft aboard the rocket, for a one-year mission in orbit around Earth. The 1,290-pound (585-kilogram) spacecraft was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with $100 million furnished nearly entirely by private donors.

US satellite manufacturer Space Systems Loral, a Maxar company, purchased the Falcon 9 launch on behalf of its customer Pasifik Satelit Nusantara, or PSN.

The landing sequence should take about 15 minutes - a delicate procedure that'll be monitored by a joint group from the Israel Space Agency, NASA and the Weizmann Institute of Science, reports The Jerusalem Post.

Once launched, the spacecraft will enter a gradually widening Earth orbit that will eventually bring the probe within the moon's gravitational pull, setting the stage for a series of additional maneuvers leading to an automated touchdown.

The Israeli craft was placed in Earth orbit, from where it will use its own engine to undertake a seven-week trip to reach the Moon and touch down on April 11 in a large plain. The first "soft landings" for both countries came in 1966, when spacecraft made controlled descents to the lunar surface. According to SpaceIL representatives, the mission's total cost, including the historic launch, is only $100 million. In addition to Kahn, Dr Miriam Adelson, an Israeli-American doctor and philanthropist, and her husband, casino magnate and investor Sheldon Adelson, contributed $US24 million to keep the lunar lander soaring.

"The problem with that is, it doesn't allow us to choose the orbit completely", says Yonathan Winetraub, one of the founders of SpaceIL.

The U.S. Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon - the only ones yet achieved - between 1969 and 1972, with about a dozen more robotic landings combined by the United States and Soviets.

SpaceX said it planned to land the first stage on a droneship, which will land in the Atlantic Ocean, following separation.

Beresheet is helping to blaze a trail for low-priced private space exploration.

But it will have just enough time to carry out its primary objectives: plant an Israeli flag on the moon, measure the moon's magnetic field, study surrounding lunar craters, and of course, take some epic lunar selfies.

Lunar surface operations are meant to last just two days. Up to this point, the moon has been a destination that only wealthy and powerful nations could reach.

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