Israel to launch rocket to the moon in December

Screen capture from video of a press conference displaying the SpaceIL moon craft

An Israeli organisation announced plans today to launch the country's first spacecraft to the moon in December, with hopes of burnishing Israel's reputation as a small nation with otherworldly high-tech ambitions. If the December launch goes well, the Israeli flag may grace the Moon by next February.

To date, the U.S. is the only country to have successfully landed human astronauts on the moon.

SpaceIL will ship the as yet unnamed module to the United States in November ahead of the launch.

Josef Weiss, IAI CEO said, "As one who has personally brought the collaboration with SpaceIL to IAI, I regard the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon as an example of the incredible capabilities one can reach in civilian-space activity".

"Our mission was never about winning the prize money - although $20 million would have been nice", said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby.

Initially, this plan was part of a competition that Google set up called the Lunar XPrize.

It is measured to be four-feet high, and 6 ½-feet in diameter, and it will be able to reach a maximum speed of 22,370 miles per hour.

At a press conference at IAI's MBT Space facility in Yehud, Israel, the partners said that the US$88 million spacecraft will take two months to reach the Moon after lifting off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and at 1,322 lb (600 kg) it will be the smallest spacecraft to touch down on the Moon's surface.

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"As soon as the spacecraft reaches the landing point it will be completely autonomous", Anteby said.

The research, conducted in cooperation with scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, will use a magnetometer on the spacecraft to attempt to understand how the rocks on the moon received their magnetism.

Along with Kahn, the Israeli Space Agency and USA megadonor casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson are funding SpaceIL. This process will be executed autonomously by the spacecraft's navigation control system, project team members said.

The probe weighs approximately 600kg on Earth but that weight will drop down to 180kg in the Moon's lower gravity pull. This will take about two days to finish.

The competition officially ended with no victor on March 31, with Google announcing that it would no longer sponsor it.

The initiative aims to raise interest in space and science among Israelis and encourage the younger generations to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professions.

But SpaceIL has continued to work on its moon mission.

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