Israel has announced they are planning to launch their first moon mission in December 2018 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. If all goes as per plans, Israel will become the fourth country after the US, Russia, and China to land their mission on the moon.
The unmanned mission is the result of collaboration between the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and the non-profit organization SpaceIL, which also participated in the Google Lunar X-Prize competition that ended in March with no ultimate winner. As per the plans, the lunar spacecraft will land on the moon on Feb. 13, 2019. A specific launch date in December is yet to be announced. The spacecraft will take about two months time to reach its destination after launch.
Ido Anteby, SpaceIL CEO, said that their lunar spacecraft will be the smallest ever to land on the moon. It measures about 2 meters in diameter and stands just a meter and a half high. While the spacecraft will weigh 585 kilograms at launch, it will land on the lunar surface with only 180 kilos.
Once it lands on the moon, the spacecraft will use its cameras to click pictures and record videos of the lunar surface. It will also use a magnetometer to measure the moon’s magnetic field at the landing site.
“As soon as the spacecraft reaches the landing point it will be completely autonomous,” Anteby said. “The motor will break the craft and it will reach the ground at zero speed for a soft landing.”
SpaceIL President Morris Kahn said that the first Israeli spacecraft’s launch will put the country on the world’s space map.
The spacecraft will undergo final testing in the next few months to ensure that it can survive the launch, flight, and landing. It will then head to Cape Canaveral, Florida, from where it will get launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in December.