Watch history in the making as Israel's Beresheet spacecraft launches upon its historic mission to the moon. Once landed, Beresheet's mission will be to transmit photo and videos of the surface, as well as to conduct scientific measurements.
A communications satellite for Indonesia was the main cargo aboard the Falcon 9 rocket, which illuminated the sky as it took flight.
The 585-kilogram, dishwasher-sized lander was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defence contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with $US100 million furnished nearly entirely by private donors.
In addition to a textbook launch and payload deployments, SpaceX scored yet another success in its pioneering technology for recycling its own rockets. Last month Israel Aerospace Industries partnered with German spacecraft builder OHB to offer a version of the lander it built for SpaceIL to the European Space Agency for commercial delivery of payloads to the moon's surface.
In January 2017, SpaceIL became one of the competition's five finalists.
The Nasantara Satu mission lifts off from Cape Canaveral on February 21, 2019, carrying SpaceIL's lunar lander bound for the moon.
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SpaceIL started out as a competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million moon race that sought to spur development of the private space sector. As the Associated Press reports, Beresheet's orbit around Earth will increase in size until the Moon's gravitational tug is strong enough to capture the craft. "Make us proud", he said on Thursday. Space Systems Loral took on that responsibility, signing up rideshare broker Spaceflight Inc. of Seattle, Washington, which then secured Israel's 600-kilogram Beresheet lander and the Air Force Research laboratory's 60-kilogram S5 smallsat.
During its descent, the spacecraft will measure the Moon's magnetic field, potentially revealing new details about iron core deep below, reports The New York Times.
The SpaceIL strategy of gradually raising Beresheet's orbit around Earth, however, helps to keep the lander's price tag low. Beresheet is only expected to survive on the lunar surface for about two or three days.
"In religion and ethics, science and scholarship, we have long reached for the stars; now we are rightfully reaching the moon".
It will take eight weeks to get to the moon.
A decision to make the lunar hop won't be made until after the landing in April, but there's really nothing to gain from such a manoeuvre - one that could unnecessarily damage the probe.
From there, the spacecraft will execute a series of manoeuvres to reach its destination between the landing sites of Apollo 15 and 17 by mid-April.