“After eight years of hard work, our dream has come true: We finally have a spacecraft,” said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby yesterday when the nonprofit organization and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)’s first lunar spacecraft began a historic journey to the moon in Ben Gurion Airport to Orlando, Florida, ahead of launching in mid-February.
Upon completing its lunar mission – the first in Israel’s history and the first that’s privately funded – Israel would join superpowers China, Russia and the United States in landing a spacecraft on the moon.
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The 180-kilogram spacecraft was packed into a special temperature-controlled, sterile shipping container, built to protect the spacecraft and ensure it arrives safely at SpaceX Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The spacecraft – named Beresheet (the Hebrew word for ‘in the beginning’- Genesis) will be added as a secondary payload by launch service provider Spaceflight. It will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket together with a geostationary communications satellite built by SSL.
In addition to the container holding Beresheet, two more containers included in the cargo plane, which itself is temperature controlled. SpaceIL and IAI engineers accompany the spacecraft on the flight to Florida, and more engineers will join them in Cape Canaveral. Beresheet will undergo final tests before being launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Since the establishment of SpaceIL, the task of landing an Israeli spacecraft on the moon has become a national project, with educational impact, 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.
“The excitement we all feel today will only intensify moving forward, and I can’t wait for the next milestone,” said Kahn. “This is only the beginning.”
Additional donors include Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson – whose $24 million contributions enabled the project to continue – and Lynn Schusterman, Steven and Nancy Grand, Sylvan Adams, Sami Sagol and others.