TEL AVIV – Israel aims to become the fourth country to land on the moon with the planned launch on Thursday of Capes Canaveral, Florida, of Beresheet, the first Israeli spacecraft in his country.
The challenge involves not only $ 100 million in investment and eight years of hard work, according to the team of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs involved in the initiative, but also, perhaps, the future. independent and privatized space travel.
Beresheet, the Hebrew word for Genesis, is the smallest and cheapest space shuttle ever designed to attempt the journey from Earth to the Moon, according to the authors of the project. Measuring only 1.5 meters high and 2 meters in diameter, the ship is aiming for a lunar landing on April 11th.
Previous landings on the Moon – the former Soviet Union in 1966, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969, and China in 2013 – were all government-sponsored projects. The initiative, led by SpaceIL, an Israeli non-profit organization, is funded primarily by Jewish donors and foundations around the world.
Ido Anteby, General Manager of SpaceIL, said that as long as there were no failures at the last minute on Thursday night, the launch has already been postponed at least once. Beresheet will leave Earth's atmosphere by hitchhiking on a Falcon 9 commercial rocket belonging to the SpaceX station of Elon Musk. .
Once the spacecraft clears from the Falcon 9 rocket, the craft will take a circular route to reach the Moon, covering a total distance of 6.5 million kilometers, making several turns around the Earth and from the moon. Upon reaching the orbit of the moon, Beresheet will reduce its speed in the hope of being captured by the gravity of the moon.
There are still challenges ahead before reaching a lunar landing and putting Israel on the map of the space industry. Israelis have already seen their share of disappointment and tragedy when it comes to space travel. The only Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, was one of seven crew members on the space shuttle Columbia when it disintegrated when it returned to Earth's atmosphere in 2003.
Morris Kahn, president of SpaceIL and his main investor, said Monday that he hoped that this initiative, as the first non-governmental business flight to the moon, would significantly contribute to future space exploration.
He also stated that he "offered" the project to Israel and declared it a national project. "Not only all Israelis, but also all Jews will remember where he was when the Israeli spacecraft landed on the moon," said Kahn, an Israeli billionaire born in South Africa.
If all goes as planned, future visitors to the Moon will also have a reminder of Israel's inaugural space flight, as the craft, which makes a one-way trip, carries capsules filled with Israeli national symbols, Jewish cultural objects, as well as digital files detailing how this project came about. It also carries a tiny nanotechnology version of the Bible.
As part of its mission, Beresheet will engage in scientific research on behalf of the Israeli Weizmann Institute of Science, by measuring the magnetic fields of the moon with specially installed computers and cameras, said Anteby of SpaceIL .
The seeds of the Beresheet initiative began to take shape in 2010, when three young Israeli entrepreneurs signed up to compete for the now defunct Google Lunar X Award. Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yehonatan Weintraub were hoping to win the $ 20 million prize by landing an Israeli-built unmanned space ship and urging Israeli schoolchildren to science, technology, engineering and mathematics .
Although the three Israelis did not win the prize – no one did – they then created SpaceIL. Since then, the project has not only benefited from the financial support of private investors and Israeli government agencies such as Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Israeli Space Agency. It was these links that made it possible last summer to facilitate agreements with NASA and Musk's SpaceX.
Opher Doron, director general of IAI, said the goal of the company is to inspire a generation of children to study science and technology.
"We want to make them feel that they can achieve everything," he said.
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