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Watch SpaceX Launch the First Private Lunar Lander Mission

Watch SpaceX Launch the First Private Lunar Lander Mission

The four-legged Beresheet, barely the size of a washing machine, will circle Earth in ever bigger loops until it's captured by lunar gravity and goes into orbit around the moon. It is scheduled to land on April 11.

Beresheet will end up putting about 4 million miles (6.5 million kilometers) on its odometer when all is said and done.

Beresheet's creators are Israel Aerospace Industries and the nonprofit company SpaceIL, who built the spacecraft for $100 million, including launch costs - a tiny cost for a space mission.

Space Systems Loral took on that responsibility, signing up rideshare broker Spaceflight Inc. of Seattle, Washington, which then secured Israel's 600-kilogram Beresheet lander and the Air Force Research laboratory's 60-kilogram S5 smallsat. The lander will use a thruster from Norwegian supplier Nammo to reach the moon, and to conduct a 500-meter "hop" to another location on the lunar surface.

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The mission is part of renewed global interest in the Moon, sometimes called the "eighth continent" of the Earth, and comes 50 years after American astronauts first walked on the lunar surface. Dates correspond with Israel Standard Time. SpaceIL co-founder Kfir Damari said, "It is rocket science, but our goal is to show them that it's not magic - it's something they can understand". He said it was thrilling to witness the launch in person and to know Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was watching it live from the control center in Yehud, Israel. But there is a trade-off. The problem with that is, it doesn't allow us to choose the orbit completely. "We have to consider the requirements from the other payloads" on the rocket.

The spacecraft is called "Beresheet", a reference to the words "in the beginning" from Genesis. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World. "And that takes time".

A successful touchdown would be a huge deal. Beresheet will measure the magnetic field at the landing site, and send back data and pictures. Three years later, the United States landed Ranger 4 on the moon. The competition ended without a victor, but SpaceIL pressed forward "to inspire the next generation in Israel and around the world to choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics".

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".

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