Israel, which is practically synonymous with cutting-edge technology, is finally set to join the very small club of countries who have traveled to the moon. In an announcement made Tuesday at an Israel Aerospace Industries space technology site in Yehud, project managers shared news of a partnership with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch an unmanned lunar mission in December and from there they hope to become the fourth country to land on the moon on Feb. 13 of 2019, reports Times of Israel. SpaceIL, an Israeli company, will work with Israel Aerospace Industries to launch a spacecraft into orbit with the help of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The only other countries who have managed to land on the moon are the U.S., Russia, and China.
The endeavor began, reports i24News, when Google Lunar XPrize, wanting to encourage innovation, offered a hefty sum ($30 million) for the person or company who could come up with a relatively low-cost mission to the moon. The estimated “low cost” of this mission is around $95 million.
“With its 585 kilograms, two meters in diameter and a meter and a half high, the Israeli spacecraft will be the smallest to ever land on the moon, Ido Anteby, the CEO of the nonprofit SpaceIL said on Tuesday,” reports i24News.
The mission is to study the magnetic pull of the moon. The IAI-built spacecraft will be moved to the U.S. in November to prepare for the December launch.
“We will put the Israeli flag on the moon,” said Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL, reports Times of Israel. Anteby had more to say on the subject.
“As soon as the spacecraft reaches the landing point it will be completely autonomous. The motor will brake the craft and it will reach the ground at zero speed for a soft landing. During the landing the craft will photograph the landing area with stills and video and even record itself.”
So it looks like this particular spacecraft and mission will be taking one of the first moon selfies.
Israel has long had an interest in space. Their first astronaut was Ilan Ramon, who worked with NASA on the Space Shuttle Columbia mission, which crashed just over 15 years ago. It was a heartbreaking blow to their space program, as it was for the United States.
“Ramon became the first foreign recipient of the U.S. Congressional Space Medal of Honor, which he was awarded to him posthumously,” reports Times of Israel.