This morning, SpaceIL, in conjunction with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), announced that the first Israeli spacecraft to land on the moon, “Beresheet”, will be launched this Friday morning. After a seven-week journey, the spacecraft is expected to land on the moon during April.
The Israeli spacecraft will be the smallest to land on the moon: a meter and a half high, two meters in diameter, carrying fuel that accounts for 75% of its weight – 600 kilograms. When it lands, it will weigh 180 kilograms.
The spacecraft is also unique for its low redundancy – it has no back-up systems for its various components such as are usual in space missions, making it lighter, and cheaper to build. It was developed and constructed at a cost of only $100 million.
The spacecraft will be launched at about 3:45 am, Israel time. After 30 minutes, it will separate from the launcher and will be independent in space. An hour after launch, the spacecraft will enter cruise mode, and will start orbiting the earth. It will eventually enter moon orbit, and is scheduled to land on the moon on April 11.
It was also announced at today’s press conference that the head of NASA visited Israel, inspected the spacecraft, and signed a cooperation agreement with SpaceIL through the Israel Space Agency. The agreement made it possible to reduce the risks to the spacecraft on its way to the moon. NASA will allow SpaceIL to use its systems to communicate with the spacecraft, and has installed a laser ranging retroreflector on it that will facilitate locating the spacecraft’s position.
Once it lands on the moon, the spacecraft carrying the Israeli flag will begin taking photographs of the landing site and a selfie to prove that it has indeed landed on the moon. The spacecraft also has a scientific mission: to measure the moon’s magnetic field as part of an experiment carried out in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute.
The spacecraft carries a “time capsule” – a huge database of hundreds of digital files ranging from details about the NGO, the spacecraft and the crew of the project, national symbols, cultural items and materials collected from the general public over the years to be placed on the moon by the spacecraft.
The time capsule will remain on the moon, so that the information it carries is destined to remain there for an indefinite period, to be found by future generations.