Israel Preparing Moon Shot


Israel hopes to add its name to the growing list of spacefaring countries that have landed spacecraft on the moon. Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries shipped the 1300-pound lunar lander, named Beresheet, to Orlando last week and it will be trucked to Cape Canaveral. There, it will hitchhike on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch whose primary mission is to put a communications satellite in geostationary orbit. The launch is scheduled for mid-February at the earliest. Beresheet will take the long way to the moon, gradually increasing its orbit over a two-month period until it comes under the influence of the moon’s gravity.

It will be the first moon shot for Israel and the first privately financed lunar landing. Most of the money for the $95 million project has come from private donors. It was originally conceived as an entrant in the Google Lunar X Prize competition but the deadline for that competition ended March 31, 2018, with no one claiming the $30 million. Even so, the Beresheet will meet the requirements of the competition by reigniting its rocket sometime after landing and moving at least 500 meters. Its only payload will be a time capsule of Israeli memorabilia but SpaceIL hopes to build more landers in the future that could have commercial or scientific payloads. China landed a spacecraft on the so-called far side of the moon on Jan. 2.