Israel flying to moon after SpaceX launch

An artist's impression of the Beresheet moon lander.             
    SpaceIL

An artist's impression of the Beresheet moon lander. SpaceIL

The craft was developed by Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL as well as the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries.

An Israeli spacecraft rocketed toward the moon for the country's first attempted lunar landing, following a launch Thursday night by SpaceX.

The unmanned craft, weighing 1,300 pounds and standing approximately five feet tall, began an approximate seven-week journey to the moon, from where it will send back images of the rocky surface and conduct experiments on the lunar magnetic field.

The forty-day voyage culminates with a landing scheduled for April 11.

It's expected to take about two months for the lander to reach the moon.

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The Air Force Rrch Laboratory (AFRL) S5 spacecraft is meant to set whether low-priced satellites could be used for Department of Defence missions.

"I wanted to show that Israel - this little country with a population of about 6 or 8 million people - could actually do a job that was only done by three major powers in the world: Russia, China, and the United States", Morris Kahn, a billionaire who funded about $43 million of the roughly $100 million mission, told Business Insider.

Falcon 9's first stage for the Nusantara Satu mission previously supported the Iridium-7 mission in July 2018 and the SAOCOM 1A mission in October 2018.

SpaceIL co-founder Yonatan Weintraub told Fox News in a statement, "After more than eight years of working with brilliant engineers, we are finally ready to launch our spacecraft to the Moon!"

All these launched from the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Air Force station.

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The mission was originally intended for Google's Lunar Xprize, a competition created to encourage privately funded groups to send robotic landers to the moon.

SpaceX is broadcasting the launch of its mission starting 15 minutes before launch, or around 8:30 p.m. this evening.

After launching from Cape Canaveral, the spacecraft will make several lunar orbits before attempting a soft landing on the moon's surface. The contest requirements were that the vehicle would have to travel at least 500 meters on the lunar surface and be capable of transmitting HD videos and pictures back home.

Beresheet also carries a time capsule that contains, among other items, a "lunar library" provided by the Arch Mission Foundation, which seeks to preserve human knowledge for eons by storing it in various off-Earth locales. The prize expired a year ago without a victor, but SpaceIL (and several other former teams) kept working on their missions. Data will be relayed via the US space agency NASA's Deep Space Network to SpaceIL's Israel-based ground station Yehud.

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