Israeli Pride Swells as Moon Mission Successfully Lifts Off


SpaceX has sent the first privately funded lunar lander on its way to the Moon following an evening launch from Canaveral Air Force station.

Once SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket brings the lunar lander into orbit around the earth, Beresheet will leave SpaceX behind and make its way, alone, to the surface of the moon.

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 three other nations have carried out controlled "soft" landings on the moon - the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.

Previous missions have reached the moon much faster.

Prior to liftoff, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and SpaceIL prime donor Morris Kahn spoke to a crowd at SpaceIL's mission control center at Israel Aerospace Industries, where a small crowd turned out to see the country's first Moon mission take flight.

Beresheet is due to arrive on the near side of the moon in April following a two-month, 6.5 million-kilometre journey.

SpaceX is now testing a system to recover the fairings of its Falcon 9 rockets.

The Falcon 9 rocket will thrust Beresheet into a "long and complex" Earth orbit where it will spend roughly five weeks gradually widening its orbit until it is close enough to enter the moon's gravitational field.

The Nusantara Satu Mission will launch the Nusantara Satu satellite and the Beresheet lunar spacecraft, according to their website.

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

"We thought it's about time for a change, and we want to get little Israel all the way to the moon", said Yonatan Winetraub, co-founder of Israel's SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization behind the effort.

The strategy is cost-effective, helping keep Beresheet's total price tag, including launch, at about $100 million - quite low for a mission to another world.

Falcon 9's first stage for the Nusantara Satu mission previously supported the Iridium-7 mission in July 2018 and the SAOCOM 1A mission in October 2018.

Lunar surface operations are meant to last just two days.

Nearly 34 minutes after launch, Falcon 9 reached the edge of space and Beresheet was jettisoned into Earth orbit.

The company pulled off the crowd-pleasing stunt of landing the booster back on SpaceX's "Of course I still love you" drone ship less than nine minutes after lift-off. Launching the refurbished booster for a third time could net SpaceX millions (if not tens of millions) of dollars.