In an announcement made Tuesday at an Israel Aerospace Industries space technology site in Yehud, project managers shared news of a partnership with Elon Musk's SpaceX to launch an unmanned lunar mission in December and from there they hope to become the fourth country to land on the moon on February 13 of 2019, reports Times of Israel. The Israeli space agency-SpaceIL- has set the date for lunar touchdown on 13 February 2019. The other three nations are the United States, Russia, and China.
The spacecraft's design and development process, which involved intensive work of engineers, scientists and team members, began in 2013 and continued until a year ago, when its construction at the IAI MABAT Plant commenced.
But the SpaceIL team hopes that putting an Israeli-made module on the moon could help maintain Israel's technological momentum for years to come.
"Our mission was never about winning the prize money - although $20 million would have been nice", said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby.
The endeavor began, reports i24News, when Google Lunar XPrize, wanting to encourage innovation, offered a hefty sum ($30 million) for the person or company who could come up with a relatively low-priced mission to the moon. Its maximum speed will reach more than 10 km per second (36,000 kilometers, or almost 22,370 miles, per hour).
SpaceX will handle the launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in December.
Anteby said the SpaceIL craft - bearing an Israeli flag - will disengage from the launch rocket at an altitude of 60,000 kilometers (37,282 miles) and will begin orbiting Earth in elliptical orbits.
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.
Challenges must still be overcome, including compensating for the craft's smaller fuel capacity, Inbar said. These were the words quoted when Neil Armstrong from the U.S. stepped on Moon for the first time.
SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the worldwide Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) competition, which had offered a prize of $20 million to the first privately funded team to put a robot down on the moon, move it at least 1,650 feet and have it beam high-definition photos and video to Earth. The entire journey, from launch to landing, will last approximately two months. The spacecraft will have a magnetometer to find out how rocks on the moon got their magnetism.
On the moon, the vessel will transmit data to the control centre at IAI for two days before its systems shut down.
The competition officially ended with no victor on March 31, with Google announcing that it would no longer sponsor it.