If Beresheet successfully executes a soft landing on the lunar surface, Israel will become the fourth nation to achieve such a landing on the moon, following in the footsteps of the world's "space superpowers" - the United States, Russia and China.
The $100 million mission was designed and built by SpaceIL, a nonprofit based in Israel, and will take until early April to reach the moon.
The U.S. Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon - the only ones yet achieved - between 1969 and 1972, with about a dozen more robotic landings combined by the Americans and Soviets.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Israeli startup SpaceIL partnering with SpaceX to launch the first private lunar lander to the Moon and China's lunar lander on the far side of the moon. Eastern, deploying the Beresheet lunar lander 33 minutes later, and the Nusantara Satu telecom satellite with the S5 experimental smallsat almost 45 minutes after liftoff. The unmanned robotic lander is called Beresheet, Hebrew for "in the beginning" and was paid for by Israeli non-profit SpaceIL.
The four-legged Beresheet, barely the size of a washing machine, will circle Earth in ever bigger loops until it's captured by lunar gravity and goes into orbit around the moon.
The rocket was launched at 8:45 p.m. Thursday on (01:45 GMT on Friday).
The SpaceX rocket took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 8.45pm local time.
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Beresheet is due to arrive on the near side of the moon in April following a two-month, 6.5 million-kilometre journey. So the successful launch for SpaceX and its history-making mission couldn't have come at a better time.
SpaceIL's Beresheet robot is just one of several spacecraft "ridesharing" on the rocket. Nusantara Satu is Indonesia's first high-throughput satellite that will improve Internet connectivity in the region, according to a SpaceX press kit.
The 5-foot-tall Beresheet lander will be tucked into the rocket with Nusantara Satu. Once landed, Beresheet's mission will be to transmit photo and videos of the surface, as well as to conduct scientific measurements.
The U.S. Air Force also has a small research spacecraft aboard the rocket, for a one-year mission in orbit around Earth.
For this launch, SpaceX plans to reuse a rocket booster that's already flown twice.
This is the third time this rocket booster has been sent up into space and successfully returned, passing a crucial test about whether it could survive re-entry conditions in the future.
All these launched from the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Air Force station. If the mission gets scrubbed because of wind, rain, or technical issues, SpaceX will have another chance tomorrow to try again.