Israel launches first lunar lander

SpaceX launches moon lander lands booster despite tough conditions

Israel launches first lunar lander

A Falcon9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying an Israeli spacecraft that seeks to measure the magnetic field of the moon as the spacecraft lands, according to The New York Times.

After making its way to the moon, Beresheet will have to perform a soft landing on the surface, after which it will photograph everything it can and study the surrounding environment.

If the craft is landed successful, Israel will join China, Russia and the United States as the only countries to ever successfully land a craft on the moon. If the mission gets scrubbed because of wind, rain, or technical issues, SpaceX will have another chance tomorrow to try again.

"We'll keep analyzing the data, but bottom line is we entered the very exclusive group of countries that have launched a spacecraft to the moon", said Yigal Harel, head of SpaceIL's spacecraft program.

It's expected to take about two months for the lander to reach the moon.

Beresheet would mark the first non-government lunar landing.

SpaceX is now testing a system to recover the fairings of its Falcon 9 rockets.

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A graphic showing the Israeli lunar lander Beresheet's path to the moon. "Israel is aiming for the #moon and you're all invited to watch", said a Twitter message from SpaceIL, the non-profit organization that designed the Israeli craft.

Beresheet, which means "Genesis" in Hebrew, lifted off at 8:45 pm (0145 GMT Friday) atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the private US-based SpaceX company of entrepreneur Elon Musk.

The rocket's two other payloads were a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force. SpaceIL co-founder Kfir Damari said, "It is rocket science, but our goal is to show them that it's not magic - it's something they can understand".

The Falcon 9 was on its third flight having launched the Iridium-7 mission in July 2018 and the SAOCOM 1A mission the following October.

Beresheet is created to spend just two to three days using on-board instruments to photograph its landing site and measure the moon's magnetic field.

SpaceX plans to recover the first-stage booster, which flew twice previous year, with a touchdown on an ocean platform. This is what makes NASA's offer to track the spacecraft with its Deep Space Network and lunar orbiters so valuable. The spacecraft is also equipped with the ability to "hop" short distances on the moon, and engineers say they're confident it carries the fuel to do so.

The space company has previously re-used first-stage and second-stage rocket boosters, in addition to one of its previously flown Dragon capsules.

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