Israel's first lunar lander launched into space from Florida

Israeli Spacecraft Aims To Make History By Landing On Moon

"Beresheet is the first spacecraft to land on the Moon as a result of a private initiative, rather than a government". The robotic lander, dubbed Beresheet (which means "Genesis" or "in the beginning" in Hebrew) lifted off at 8:45 pm EST on top of a Falcon 9 rocket.

The rocket left the pad at Space Launch Complex 40 at 01:45 UTC, marking the first launch for SpaceX from the facility in 2019.

Meanwhile, Beresheet, the Air Force Research Laboratory's S5 satellite, and the primary payload, Nusantara Saru, pushed on to orbit.

The initial project was conceived in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition to successfully land an unmanned probe on the Moon, which was eventually discontinued before a victor was declared since no competitors were able to complete their projects by the March 31, 2018, deadline.

US satellite manufacturer Space Systems Loral, a Maxar company, purchased the Falcon 9 launch on behalf of its customer Pasifik Satelit Nusantara, or PSN. The first soft landing on the moon came in 1966; executed by both the both Russian Federation and the United States; there was not another unmanned soft landing until China launched Chang'e 3 in 2013.

SpaceIL was originally building the Beresheet lander for the Google Lunar X Prize, but continued on with the lander after the contest ended in March 2018 without a victor for the $20 million award.

"Israel is a very small country, as small as New Jersey, and we're shooting for the moon, SpaceIL manager of the Beresheet program Yigal Harel said".

If successful, Beresheet will end up as the prototype for a series of future moon landing missions planned jointly by IAI and Germany's OHB System on behalf of the European Space Agency.

So far, only the US, Russia and China have landed spacecrafts on the moon.

These were "hard landings", meaning the craft crashed into the moon.

Beresheet was jettisoned into Earth orbit about 34 minutes after launch, followed 15 minutes later by the release of the two satellites, according to a SpaceX webcast of the event.

The total cost of one of its Falcon 9 launches is estimated to reach £44 million ($61m), while each of its larger Falcon Heavy flights costs £65 million ($90m).

SpaceX plans to stream live footage of the launch via YouTube, and you can watch the company's broadcast using the embedded video player below.

SpaceIL and IAI kept the price tag so low in part by sharing a ride on the Falcon 9, which lofted two other spacecraft to Earth orbit last night as well. Beresheet is only expected to survive on the lunar surface for about two or three days.

Under the original terms of the Google Lunar X Prize contest, Beresheet would have been required to fire thrusters and hop to a new location at least 500 meters away from the landing site.

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