JERUSALEM — Israel is about to make history by launching the first private spacecraft to the moon this week, the developers behind the lunar mission announced Tuesday.
The landing craft, dubbed Beresheet, is scheduled to be launched on Feb. 22 and is expected to land on the moon on April 11, according to a joint press release by government-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and nonprofit organization SpaceIL.
Beresheet will be propelled by an American SpaceX rocket, and the launch site is located in the U.S. state of Florida.
The launch of Beresheet, or Genesis in Hebrew, is a historic event as it is “the first spacecraft to land on the moon as a result of a private initiative, rather than a government,” IAI and SpaceIL said in the press release.
“Eight years ago we ventured on this journey that is now nearing completion in about two months when we land on the moon,” SpaceIL President Morris Kahn said in the press release.
“We are making history and are proud to be part of a group that dreamed and realized the vision that many countries in the world share, but so far only three have realized,” Kahn said.
If the mission turns out to be a success, Israel will become the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon, after the Soviet Union, the United States and China.
“The journey to the moon is fraught with challenges, but thanks to the professionalism, determination and faith of all the partners in the project, an Israeli spacecraft will be launched to the moon in the coming days,” IAI CEO Nimrod Sheffer said.
“IAI together with our partners at SpaceIL will continue to do everything necessary to ensure the success of this mission,” Sheffer added.
Beresheet weighs only about 600 kgr, which is considered the smallest spacecraft by weight. It is about 1.5 meters high, 2 meters in diameter and carries fuel which accounts for approximately 75 percent of its weight, according to its developers.
The spacecraft will make its 6.5-million-km journey at a maximum speed of 10 km per second, or 36,000 km per hour.
Beresheet was born out of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition which offered a reward of 30 million U.S. dollars for encouraging privately funded teams to be the first to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon.
The competition ended without a winner in March 2018. However, SpaceIL announced that it would continue working on its mission.