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12 July 2018, 12:23 | Dale Webster
Israeli scientists stand next to an unmanned spacecraft in Yahud
An Israeli non-profit organisation has announced plans to send the first privately-funded unmanned spacecraft to the Moon later this year.
The CEO of the nonprofit SpaceIL, Ido Anteby, said that their spacecraft will be the smallest one ever to land on the surface of the moon. Then, upon receipt of a command from mission control, the craft will enter a higher-altitude elliptical orbit around our planet, which will reach a point near the moon, project team members said.
The lunar landing will culminate eight years of intensive collaboration between SpaceIL and IAI, and will make Israel the fourth country after the U.S., China and Russian Federation to reach the moon.
It will be launched via a rocket from Elon Musk's SpaceX firm this December, and it's expected to land on the moon on February 13, 2019.
SpaceIL was the only Israeli company involved in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, which carried a £15million ($20million) victory prize until it was scrapped in March 2018 due to contestants' missed deadlines.
A successful mission would be a significant achievement, giving scientists a relatively low-priced spacecraft for future experiments, said Tal Inbar, head of the Space & UAV Research Center at The Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzilya, Israel.
The SpaceIL lunar space craft.
Once it completes its mission, the spacecraft will remain on the moon, proudly displaying the flag of the State of Israel.
After succeeding in raising the critical funds to continue its activity, SpaceIL announced that it was determined to continue on its mission and to launch its spacecraft by the end of the year, regardless of the competition. The spacecraft has four carbon fiber legs and fuel takes up two-thirds of its weight. "It is a national accomplishment that will put us on the world's space map". It will then begin orbiting the moon, until the appropriate time to begin the landing process. In recent years, SpaceIL has ignited the imagination of about 900,000 children nationwide, with the help of a broad network of volunteers.
For children from any country, SpaceIL introduced its Moon Kids website in English, chock full of fun interactive content about the moon and outer space.
Along with Kahn, the Israeli Space Agency and US megadonor casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson are funding SpaceIL.
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