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Israel to launch its first spacecraft to the moon

13 July 2018

Ido Anteby, CEO of the company, told a press conference in the Israeli city of Yehud that the probe would be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in December this year.

If successful, SpaceIL's $95 million project, funded largely by billionaire Morris Kahn, will become the first private enterprise endeavor to match the Moon exploration achievements of Russian Federation, the United States and China.

Although the Google contest was eventually scrapped in March 2018 after none of the teams managed to launch their probes before the deadline, the SpaceIL group continued with its project, thanks to the support of its donors.

Ido Anteby, SpaceIL's CEO, stands in front of an unmanned spacecraft in Yahud, Israel, on July 10.

SpaceIL is backed mainly by private donors, including U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and billionaire Morris Kahn who co-founded Amdocs, one of Israel's biggest high-tech companies.

SpaceIL launched in 2011 when engineers Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub partnered to compete in the Google Lunar XPRIZE-an global competition to put a small, mobile craft on the moon.

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SpaceIL's lander is only about two metres in diameter and about 1.5 meters tall.

So it looks like this particular spacecraft and mission will be taking one of the first moon selfies.

The launch of the first Israeli spacecraft will fill Israel, in its 70th year, with pride. "When the rocket is launched into space, we will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon", stated Moris Khan, the primary investor in the SpaceIL mission.

Israel Aerospace Industries, the country's prime aerospace and aviation manufacturer, has been a full partner in this project since its inception, along with other partners from the private sector, the government companies and the academia.

On the moon, the vessel will transmit data to the control centre at IAI for two days before its systems shut down. The State of Israel, which is already firmly planted in the realm of space in its military activity, must harness resources for the benefit of civilian space, which is an engine of innovation, technology, education and groundbreaking around the world. The prize would help land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon, the first one which is privately funded.

The Google prize expired in March without a victor having reached the moon, but Israel's team pledged to push forward. Concurrently, the non-profit is continuing its efforts to raise the funds necessary to complete this mission. To date, 50,000 children have been reached by SpaceIL volunteers in classrooms around the world.

Israel to launch its first spacecraft to the moon