Published: Sat, February 23, 2019
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

SpaceX is rocketing the first private mission to the moon tonight

SpaceX is rocketing the first private mission to the moon tonight

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin wished the Israeli non-profit organization SpaceIL well on Thursday ahead of the launch of its unmanned robotic explorer, named "Beresheet", to the moon.

The first Israeli lunar spacecraft Beresheet - Genesis in English - will be launched from the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 3:45 a.m. (Israel time) Friday.

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.

An Israeli nonprofit called SpaceIL designed and developed the 1,322-lb robot called Beresheet, which means "in the beginning" - the first words in the Bible.

SpaceIL started out as a competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million moon race that sought to spur development of the private space sector.

A communications satellite for Indonesia was the main cargo aboard the Falcon 9 rocket, which illuminated the sky as it took flight.

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The SpaceX rocket took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 8.45pm local time.

Nusantara Satru and S5 will head to geosynchronous orbit before parting ways, while Beresheet conducts a series of phasing loops to raise its orbit until the spacecraft is captured by lunar gravity.

SpaceX - the Elon Musk-created firm - wants to make the first privately-built spacecraft to reach the moon. It is also the first private rather than government effort with funds coming from private donors including Morris Kahn and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.

The craft was successfully deployed from SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket yesterday.

Once it lands on the moon, the spacecraft carrying the Israeli flag will begin taking photographs of the landing site and a selfie to prove that it has indeed landed on the moon. The spacecraft is also equipped with the ability to "hop" short distances on the moon, and engineers say they're confident it carries the fuel to do so. Data will be relayed via the US space agency NASA's Deep Space Network to SpaceIL's Israel-based ground station Yehud. Oded Aharonson of Israel's preeminent Weizmann Institute, explaining the significance of the launch for the Jewish state, which has several satellites.

SpaceIL was founded eight years ago to compete in the Google Lunar X Prize, an global competition to see whether a private enterprise could land a spacecraft on the moon, move 500 meters in any direction, and transmit live, high-definition video from the lunar surface. The contest requirements were that the vehicle would have to travel at least 500 meters on the lunar surface and be capable of transmitting HD videos and pictures back home.

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