JERUSALEM – Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu observed on Friday the successful launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral of the first privately-sponsored spacecraft to the Moon.
Netanyahu and his wife Sara watched the launch of the $100 million Israeli capsule, Beresheet (which means Genesis or beginning in Hebrew) to the Moon in the central city of Yehud from a control room television at the headquarters of the State-controlled Israel Aerospace Industries, which is in charge of the project along with the private non-profit organization SpaceIL.
“The real fuel of this spacecraft is the Israeli boldness and ingenuity,” Netanyahu said after the launch, adding that despite being a small country, the Israelis have had major achievements.
The Moon mission is the first of its kind, funded by private donations from philanthropists such as South African billionaire Morris Kahn, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Lynn Schusterman and others.
Beresheet is set to cover the longest route to the Moon – spanning nearly 6.5 million kilometers – and will be carried via a Falcon 9 rocket designed by SpaceX, a private US aerospace producer and space transport company founded by famed entrepreneur Elon Musk.
After landing on the moon on April 11, Beresheet will start a series of tests to guarantee it is functioning.
Once this is confirmed, Beresheet is to measure the magnetic field of the Moon, and send, simultaneously, images and videos of the lunar surface.
Beresheet also carries a digital time capsule, which includes thousands of documents about the history of humankind and of Israel. In addition, the craft contains photos of the manufacturers, as well as drawings, stories and music made by Israeli children who took part in the project.
Leading up to Friday’s launch, there were questions about the spacecraft including Beresheet’s ability to land on the Moon, communication issues the craft could face while far from Earth and the craft’s ability to resist extreme conditions.
If Beresheet reaches the Moon, Israel is set to become the fourth country after the US, Russia and China, that has managed to bring a spacecraft to the lunar surface.
To date the US is the only country to land manned spacecraft on the Moon. The last manned lunar mission was the Apollo 17 mission which landed on Dec. 11, 1972 headed by Commander Eugene Cernan and pilot Harrison Schmitt, the first and to date only scientist to visit Earth’s satellite.