Israel plans first lunar space mission in December

The SpaceIL moon landing craft

An Israeli organisation announced plans Tuesday to launch the country's first spacecraft to the moon in December, with hopes of burnishing Israel's reputation as a small nation with otherworldly high-tech ambitions. The IAI-built spacecraft will be moved to the U.S.in November to prepare for the December launch. Kahn said if they pull off the moonshot it would be "a tremendous achievement".

To win, a privately funded team had to be the first to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon's surface, travel 500 meters and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth.

Approximately $88 million (NIS 320 million) has been invested in the spacecraft's development and construction, mostly from private donors, headed by SpaceIL President Mr. Morris Kahn, who donated about $27 million, or NIS 100 million.

SpaceIL has so far spent about $89 million on the project.

"We will put the Israeli flag on the moon", said Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL, reports Times of Israel.

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"Our mission was never about winning the prize money - although $20 million would have been nice", said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby.

The spacecraft is a "hopper", which will land and then take off again with the fuel left in its propulsion system, and then perform another landing 500m away, as required by the XPrize. However, the competition ended with no victor at the end of March, but the competition for the $30 million in cash prize continues, even without the cash. Astronauts shall be sent to the Moon by China in 2036 and Russian Federation have plans to send cosmonauts to the Moon.

In the coming months, the Israeli spacecraft will undergo intensive checks and tests at IAI to prove that it can withstand the launch, flight and landing conditions, said Anteby.

Four other teams are still competing against SpaceIL for the honour of winning the Google Lunar XPrize - Moon Express from the US, Team Indus from India, Hakuto from Japan, and Synergy Moon, an global group. "It's a small, smart spacecraft, it has a two meters diameter, its height is about 1.5 meters (3.2 feet), it weighs 600 kilograms (1,300 lbs), and will land on the Moon at the weight of 180 kilograms (396 lbs)". The non-profit aims to change the discourse in Israel and to encourage boys and girls to regard science, engineering, technology and math as exciting opportunities for their future.

At the time, SpaceIL announced it will continue its efforts to complete the mission. With the help of a broad network of volunteers, SpaceIL has already made presentations to about 900,000 children nationwide.

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