July 8, 2020, 5:25

‘Size of Smart Car’: Things You Need to Know About Israel’s First Lunar Mission

‘Size of Smart Car’: Things You Need to Know About Israel’s First Lunar Mission

On Friday, Israel’s Beresheet space robot will blast off from Florida to land on the moon in a mission that will be propelled by one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets. After detaching from the launcher, the spacecraft will orbit the Earth for a few months before landing on the moon in late April.

The exciting project could be a landmark achievement for Israel’s voyage into space, and Sputnik has compiled all you need to know about the forthcoming lunar mission.

Historic Mission

If successful, the mission will make Israel the world’s fourth country to land on the moon, after Russia, the US and China.

A whopping $100 million in private donations has been contributed to the mission, which is set to become the first-ever privately funded lunar landing.

READ MORE: Israel Prepares Its First-Ever Lunar Mission on Musk’s SpaceX Rocket (VIDEO)

The state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Corporation said that “this is the lowest-budget spacecraft to ever undertake such a mission” and that although it is a private venture, Beresheet is a “national and historic achievement”.

Bar’s Get-Together

Interestingly, the idea of sending a robotic lander to the moon occurred to Israeli entrepreneurs Yonatan Winetraub, Yariv Bash and Kfir Damari when they gathered at a bar almost a decade ago.

“As the alcohol level in our blood rose, we got more and more determined to do this. And it never faded away,” Winetraub said in an interview with the Grapevine website.

Google’s Early Involvement

In 2007, the three entrepreneurs first entered their idea into the Google LunarX Prize, a 2007–2018 inducement prize space competition, organised by the X Prize Foundation, and sponsored by the internet giant.

None of the dozens of teams who entered the contest could succeed in creating the spacecraft that could land on the moon and send back high-definition pictures, which is why Google finally called off the cash competition worth $20 million in early 2018.

READ MORE: NASA Administrator Says Agency Plans to ‘Go to the Moon and Stay’

Still, Israel’s SpaceIL company managed to finish the construction of the robotic lander late last year and shipped it to Cape Canaveral in Florida in January, when the spacecraft underwent last-ditch testing before the 22 February launch.

‘The Size of a Smart Car’

The lander is the smallest such craft by weight, at 600 kilograms, and measures just 1.5 metres by 2 metres.

Winetraub said that the spacecraft’s size is “closer to a smart car”, which likely turns the lander into the smallest spacecraft ever designed for a lunar landing.

Ride Into Space Uber-Style

Commenting on the fact that the Beresheet will be propelled by one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, Winetraub said that “it’s more like a ride-share”.

“There are passengers in the front seat and passengers in the back seat all going up to space,” he added.

First and foremost, the Falcon 9 rockets will drop satellites and other space equipment, with the Beresheet being the final vehicle to be dropped off.

Scientific Research and ‘Time Capsule’

After it touches down, the lander will carry out scientific research, measuring the magnetic field of the moon in order to help scientist understand how it formed.

Beresheet will also deposit a “time capsule” of digital files the size of coins which contain the Bible, children’s drawings, Israel’s national anthem and flag, as well as memories of a Holocaust survivor and Israeli songs and prayers.

Beresheet, Hebrew for “Genesis”, is due to lift off from Cape Canaveral at 01.45 GMT on 22 February.

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