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First private Israeli lunar mission – Beresheet – to launch in February

An Israeli company says it has pushed back the launch of what it hopes will be the first private spacecraft to land on the moon.

Officials from SpaceIL and the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries told reporters that the landing craft, dubbed Beresheet – or Genesis, will travel in February to Florida, where, propelled by a SpaceX Falcon rocket launch, it will commence its months-long voyage to the moon.

It had been planned to launch this month.

Israel Aerospace Industries manager Opher Doron stressed that the small craft, about the size of a washing machine, faces a “difficult, arduous journey” because it will have to make a number of orbits before landing.

If successful, the team promises the landing will be a breakthrough for Israeli technology and commercial space travel.

Israeli engineers on Monday added the final element to a spacecraft destined for the moon – a digital time capsule – saying they aim to land the craft early next year, somewhere between the landing sites of Apollo 15 and 17. It will be the first mission of its kind since 2013. If it is successful, Israel will be the fourth country to carry out a controlled “soft” landing of an unmanned vessel on the moon. Since 1966, the US and the former Soviet Union have put around a dozen of them on the moon and China last did so in 2013. “The spacecraft is completely built, tested… and will be ready to ship to Cape Canaveral in a few weeks,” according to Ido Anteby, CEO of the SpaceIL non-profit that has led the project. The craft, is shaped like a round table with four carbon-fiber legs, stands about 1.5 meters tall and weighs 585 kg, with fuel accounting for two-thirds of that weight. It will blast off from Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.