Israel's prior experience in space has been tinged with tragedy: The country's first astronaut, Col. Ilan Ramon, died in the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, and an Israeli-made satellite that was set to go into orbit in 2016 aboard a SpaceX rocket blew up during a failed launch test. The probe Beresheet began their seven-week trip to the moon in the night from space station Cape Canaveral in the US state of Florida.
The craft was developed by Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL as well as the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries.
"Successful deployment of the SpaceIL lunar lander confirmed, starting the spacecraft's two-month voyage to the Moon", SpaceX confirmed on Twitter, some 35 minutes after liftoff. Spacecraft from several countries, including India's Moon Impact Probe, Japan's SELENE orbiter and a European Space Agency orbital probe called SMART 1, have intentionally crashed on the lunar surface.
"Beresheet" will circumnavigate the earth repeatedly in order to pick up speed before it zooms toward the moon, where it is expected to land on April 11. A successful lunar surface touchdown will make Israel only the fourth nation ever to accomplish such a feat.
JewishPress.com readers are invited to watch LIVE ONLINE as the robotic lunar lander lifts off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
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The Falcon 9 rocket will thrust Beresheet into a "long and complex" Earth orbit where it will spend roughly five weeks gradually widening its orbit until it is close enough to enter the moon's gravitational field.
The launch is the start of the Nusantara Satu mission for SpaceX involving an Indonesian communications satellite. The "Apollo 8"- Misison of the United States space Agency, NASA, launched on the Morning of the 21. It is also the first private rather than government effort with funds coming from private donors including Morris Kahn and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The spacecraft also carries a disc provided by the Arch Mission Foundation that is a compendium of human knowledge along with a time capsule containing Israeli cultural symbols and a Bible.
Formed in 2011, SpaceIL were the first team to announce a signed launch contract and in January 2017 were named as one of the five finalists in the competition. Chang'e 4, as well as the suspended moon vehicle Jadehase 2 to collect data.
Beresheet is helping to blaze a trail for low-priced private space exploration.