Israeli company plans lunar landing next year

Screen capture from video of a press conference displaying the SpaceIL moon craft

Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL announced on Tuesday that it would land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon in February 2019. The IAI-built spacecraft will be moved to the U.S.in November to prepare for the December launch.

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.

Josef Weiss, IAI CEO said, "As one who has personally brought the collaboration with SpaceIL to IAI, I regard the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon as an example of the incredible capabilities one can reach in civilian-space activity". The spacecraft will orbit the Moon for nearly two months before landing, where it will record and send video and conduct some small science observations using a magnetometer.

The $95 million project, largely funded by South African-Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn and other donors, aims to land on the moon on February 13. The project has been made possible with the assistance of some generous donors, not the least by SpaceIL's President Mr. Morris Kahn who donated US$27 million.

"We will put the Israeli flag on the moon" said Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL.

SpaceIL CEO Dr. Ido Anteby revealed the spacecraft's course to the moon during the press event.

Although the Google prize expired in March without a victor having reached the moon, Israel's team pledged to push forward. As soon as the spacecraft reaches the landing point it will be completely autonomous. The spacecraft has 2 meters diameter with a height of about 1.5 meters and its image has been unveiled on SpaceIL's official Twitter page. The technical challenges remain vast and the companies and non-profits in the running for the first private landing are operating on budgets under $100 million.

"It's going to show the way for the rest of the world" to send a spacecraft to the moon at a reasonable cost, said IAI's Ofer Doron.

To date, the Us remains the only country to have successfully conducted manned missions to the moon, with the last departing the lunar surface in December 1972. The data will be transmitted to the IAI control room during the two days following the landing.

Four other teams are still competing against SpaceIL for the honour of winning the Google Lunar XPrize - Moon Express from the US, Team Indus from India, Hakuto from Japan, and Synergy Moon, an global group.

At the time, SpaceIL announced it will continue its efforts to complete the mission.

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