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Israel set to join elite lunar club with first mission to moon

Israel set to join elite lunar club with first mission to moon

It is also carrying an Indonesian telecommunications satellite and an experimental US Air Force satellite.

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.

"Initial data was received in the control room in Yehud [Israel], the spacecraft's legs deployed as planned and Beresheet started in-orbit tests while cruising to the moon", Nimrod Sheffer, CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), said in a statement.

It has been funded mainly by Morris Kahn, a philanthropist and businessman who took the lead in completing the mission, serving as SpaceIL's president and financing $40 million, says the organization.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated the Israeli team for carrying out the mission, saying, "this is a historic step for all nations and commercial space as we look to extend our collaborations beyond low-Earth orbit and on to the Moon".

The landing sequence is set to take around 15 minutes and will monitored by a joint group of scientists and engineers from the Israel Space Agency (ISA), the Weizmann Institute of Science, and NASA.

China's Chang'e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon on January 3, after a probe sent by Beijing made a Lunar landing elsewhere in 2013.

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So far, only Russian Federation, the United States and China have made the 384,000-kilometer (239,000-mile) journey and landed spacecraft on the Moon.

It will then spend the next two months stretching its elongated orbit to make it all the way to the moon and achieve lunar orbit. Once it arrives, Beresheet will be Israel's first spacecraft and the world's first privately-funded spacecraft to reach the moon. SpaceIL was later named one of five finalists for the prize, along with Cape Canaveral-based Moon Express. The company continued to develop the lander that's now en route to the moon.

The mission was originally intended for Google's Lunar Xprize, a competition created to encourage privately funded groups to send robotic landers to the moon.

SpaceIL has no plans for future explorations of its own beyond Beresheet and "will not continue after this mission", Harel said.

Previous missions have reached the moon much faster. "Make us proud", he said on Thursday.

NASA's Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s took about three days to get astronauts to the moon 240,000 miles (386,000 kilometers) away, but they used monstrous Saturn V rockets. This helps explain why Beresheet is taking such a long and circuitous route to the moon - the lander didn't have its own dedicated rocket to launch it on a direct path.


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