An Israeli organization announced on Tuesday plans to launch the country's first spacecraft to the moon in December, hoping to polish Israel's reputation as a small nation with otherworldly high-tech ambitions.
The unmanned, pod-shaped spacecraft weighing some 585 kilograms (1,300 pounds) at launch, will land on the moon on February 13, 2019 if all goes according to plan, SpaceIL organizers said at a conference Press in Yehud, central Israel.
The ship will be launched through a SpaceX signature rocket by American businessman Elon Musk and his mission will include investigations into the moon's magnetic field.
Your first task, however, will be to plant an Israeli flag on the moon, organizers said.
The project began as part of Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered $ 30 million (EUR 25 million) in prizes to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to create low-cost lunar missions.
Three young Israeli scientists ts, Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub, decided to join the fray.
"We met in a pub and started discussing what it meant," recalled Damari.
The trio formed SpaceIL and partnered with the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, imagining a small ship that they believed could land on the moon in 2013.
"As we delve into the project and more people they came together, we understood their complexity, "said Damari.
Although the Google prize expired in March without a winner having reached the moon, the Israel team committed to move forward.
A key figure to join the project was Morris Kahn, an Israeli multimillionaire born in South Africa, who heard SpaceIL present his project.
"I thought this was a great idea," he said, "and I asked them:" Do you have money? "
"They had not really thought about the financial side," Kahn said, conveying how he gave them an initial grant of $ 100,000, with their support growing with the project to largely cover the $ 95 million project.
For Kahn, that Israel has an interest in the moon along with the three world powers that are already there – the United States, Russia and China – would be "a tremendous achievement" that "will give us a sense of pride that we really need "
& # 39; Backup plans & # 39;
Yossi Weiss, the CEO of IAI, said that conquering space is not only a way to demonstrate technological prowess, but also a growing urgent need for a human race to quickly squander its resources.
"We need to think about backup plans," Weiss said. "The Earth is becoming small" and, finally, "the future of humanity is in space".
Although the planned landing of the small unmanned spacecraft is a small step towards that end, it is "very significant", Weiss said
On the moon, the ship will transmit data to the control center at the IAI for two days before your systems are turned off.
The success of the mission is expected to inspire scientific curiosity among Israeli youth.
We are trying to replicate the Apollo effect in the US UU "Said Kahn, referring to the US program that landed the first humans on the moon in 1969.
" If we are going to continue to be the country of the start-up "we have to get engineers".
But even before its launch, the capsule and its project aroused great interest among children, according to Damari.
"They say children are excited about space, robots and dinosaurs, we have a robotic spacecraft, that's two out of three," he said.
"When you meet the school with Hildren and tell them about the project, you can see the spark in their eyes.
" Even if they do not occupy space but enter another scientific or engineering field, we have realized the vision. "
Damari noted the change that his project created in the Israeli space industry, which has focused on security-related projects and satellite launches carried out for a long time.
As we begin, we can see more and more companies and projects dealing with space in the civil aspect, "he said.
The relatively poor Israeli project, which was not initiated or financed by the state, could also mark a change in the way in which the projects related to space are built and executed, paving the way for more private initiatives.
"It will show the way for the rest of the world" to send a spacecraft to the moon to a This is reasonable, said Ofer Doron, head of the IAI space division.