The Moon is familiar territory to NASA and to a handful of other space agencies from around the globe, but not so much to the private sector. On the other hand, that could all change as soon as next year.
An Israeli non-profit organization dubbed SpaceIL and a company known as Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) are poised to work together to put an unmanned spacecraft on the lunar surface by February 13th, 2019.
Image Credit: Eliran Avital
Not only would this be the first time that a privately-funded spacecraft reaches the lunar surface, but because the U.S., Russia, and China are the only countries to send a spacecraft to the lunar surface to date, it would also be a first for Israel as a nation.
"This is a tremendous project," SpaceIL President Morris Kahn said. "When the rocket is launched into space, we will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the Moon."
Citing SpaceIL, the 1,300-pound unmanned spacecraft will hitch a ride atop one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets sometime in December to reach its destination. There’s no specific launch date in mind just yet, but we do know that the rocket will take off from SpaceX’s famed Cape Canaveral, Florida-based launchpad.
When the spacecraft touches down on the Moon, it will perform various tasks. The first of these tasks will be to plant an Israeli flag into the Moon’s soil to symbolize the nation’s presence there. After that, the spacecraft will capture photos and videos of the lunar surface and employ a magnetometer to study the Moon’s magnetic field.
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It should indeed be interesting to see whether Israel will be successful in deploying this mission. Not only will it be a significant achievement for the nation, but it could also advance our understanding of Earth’s closest neighbor in space.