Israel plans to land unmanned spacecraft on moon in February

The SpaceIL moon landing craft

The SpaceIL moon landing craft

At a historic press conference Tuesday, at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)'s MBT Space facility in Yehud, Israel, nonprofit SpaceIL and IAI announced a lunar mission to launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., this December, and land on the moon on February 13, 2019. Once the mission is accomplished, the developer said the spacecraft will remain on the moon as a "symbol of Israeli success".

"We will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon", Morris Kahn, one of the project's leaders, said announcing the mission.

The dimensions of the spacecraft are 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) high and 2 meters (6.5 feet) in diameter.

SpaceIL and the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries plan to launch their unmanned craft in December, the team said at a press conference at an IAI facility outside Tel Aviv.

Israel revealed on Tuesday, July 10, a plan to launch its first moon mission in December aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceIL's project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which offered $30m (£23m) in prizes to inspire people to develop low-priced methods of robotic space exploration.

SpaceIL is backed mainly by private donors, including U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and billionaire Morris Kahn who co-founded Amdocs, one of Israel's biggest high-tech companies.

So far, only the US, Russia and China have landed spacecrafts on the moon.

The project culminated in the design of an Israeli lunar probe, which SpaceIL claimed would launch regardless of the contest's outcome. "It is a national accomplishment that will put us on the world's space map".

An Israeli organisation said that it hopes to become the first non-governmental entity to land a spacecraft on the moon when it attempts to launch a module later this year.

In total, the project has cost approximately $95 million. The company undertook to launch its spacecraft this year, and has now announced its timetable for doing so. It will then ignite its engines and reduce its speed to allow the moon's gravity to pull it in, and will begin orbiting it.

SpaceIL's module is to take photos and video of the landing site and measure the moon's magnetic field as part of a scientific experiment designed by Weizmann Institute researchers.

The program has always had STEM education as a secondary goal, aiming to encourage Israeli children to choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics. "Going to the Moon was a hugely expensive government-run mission".

The first Israeli astronaut for NASA was Ilan Ramon, who was among those killed when Space Shuttle Columbia crashed on February 1, 2003.

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