Watch SpaceX Bring World's First Private Lunar Mission Into Space

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

It will then spend the next two months stretching its elongated orbit to make it all the way to the moon and achieve lunar orbit.

A graphic showing the Israeli lunar lander Beresheet's path to the moon.

After launching from Cape Canaveral, the spacecraft will make several lunar orbits before attempting a soft landing on the moon's surface.

But the 5-foot-tall (1.5 meters) Beresheet can not take a direct path to the moon, project team members said, because the lander shared a rocket ride with two other payloads. There were about a dozen more unmanned landings by the USA and Soviets. China made history in January with its Chang'e 4, the first to touch down on the dark side of the moon.

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"This is the beginning of Israel's story in deep space. whether this succeeds or fails", SpaceIL president and billionaire high-tech developer Morris Kahn, who invested $US44 million of his own money into the Beresheet project, said.

The Falcon 9 that flew tonight was also used previous year to deliver the Iridium-7 and SAOCOM 1A payloads to orbit, SpaceX said ahead of launch. Within an hour after liftoff, Beresheet was already sending back data and had deployed its landing legs, according to SpaceIL. As we better understand Israel's capabilities and the innovative work of their private industry, we know they'll be an even stronger worldwide partner in the future, one vital to the success of extending commercial space to the Moon and eventually on to Mars and beyond.

Beresheet's lengthy stay in Earth orbit may seem surprising.

Stored inside is a totem to the nation: a time capsule in the form of three disks containing Israeli artefacts such as its Proclamation of Independence, national songs and drawings by Israeli children. 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. We are the first nongovernmental mission to the moon, and we're the first-ever moon mission to use a commercial launch". The first competitors to do it would win a $US20 million first-place prize.

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SpaceX is broadcasting the launch of its mission starting 15 minutes before launch, or around 8:30 p.m. this evening.

The initial project was conceived in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition to successfully land an unmanned probe on the Moon, which was eventually discontinued before a victor was declared since no competitors were able to complete their projects by the March 31, 2018, deadline.

But SpaceIL and IAI pushed ahead, surviving financial challenges to complete the lander.

Nusantara Satru and S5 will head to geosynchronous orbit before parting ways, while Beresheet conducts a series of phasing loops to raise its orbit until the spacecraft is captured by lunar gravity. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

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