An Israeli-built spacecraft is expected to land on the moon in February 2019 after launching from Earth two months ago. If successful, it will make Israel one of just four nations to have landed on the moon’s surface.
During a media event, held at an Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) space technology site in Yehud officials said, the probe will be launched in December from Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL said: “we will put the Israeli flag on the moon”. He added: “As soon as the spacecraft reaches the landing point it will be completely autonomous. The motor will break the craft and it will reach the ground at zero speed for a soft landing”.
The project begun seven years ago together with IAI as part of a Google technology competition to land a small probe on the moon.
The spacecraft will execute a Weizmann Institute of Science experiment to measure the moon’s magnetic field, concluding the mission in just two days.
Israeli billionaire philanthropist and SpaceIL President Morris Kahn said the idea 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.
The Israeli government has promised to fund 10% of the project.
SpaceIL will be launched into an elliptical orbit to slowly bring it closer to the moon, a journey that will take two months but will save on carrying the fuel needed for a faster channel. The craft will travel at a speed that is 13 times faster than the maximal speed of an F-15 fighter jet, steering itself to the moon, which is some 384,000 kilometres (239,000 miles) from Earth, about 10 times the distance between Earth and communication satellites orbiting it. Through its elliptical journey, the Israeli spacecraft will cover some 9 million kilometres, the project managers said.
The craft is armed with solar panels, avionics, electronics and a control system – all of which were developed in Israel. It is also equipped with cameras and communication equipment so it can stay in contact with its operatives on Earth.