"We will put the Israeli flag on the Moon", said Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL, during Tuesday's press conference in Tel Aviv, at the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), where the spacecraft and ambitious timeline for the first non-governmental moon-landing was unveiled.
SpaceIL is backed by a number of donors, including USA casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the Schusterman Family Foundation and South African-born billionaire entrepreneur Morris Kahn.
SpaceIL said the probe would be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in December on a Falcon 9 rocket built by Elon Musk's SpaceX company.
This Israeli spacecraft is expected to land on the moon in early 2019.
A successful mission would be a significant achievement, giving scientists a relatively low-priced spacecraft for future experiments, said Tal Inbar, head of the Space & UAV Research Center at The Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzilya, Israel. Kahn, a businessman and philanthropist, took it upon himself to lead this project and bring it to its completion, and regards it as his personal mission. The measurements are intended for research conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science-UCLA.
The spacecraft's design and development process, which involved intensive work of engineers, scientists and team members, began in 2013 and continued until past year, when its construction at the IAI MABAT Plant commenced.
It is measured to be four-feet high, and 6 ½-feet in diameter, and it will be able to reach a maximum speed of 22,370 miles per hour. It will be the secondary payload, launched with other satellites.
Once it completes its mission, the spacecraft will remain on the moon, proudly displaying the flag of the State of Israel. The data will be transmitted to the IAI control room during the two days following the landing.
The competition ended officially with no victor on March 31, when Google announced that it would no longer sponsor it.
Construction of the spacecraft began two years later in facilities provided by Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd.
Despite financial pitfalls in recent years that almost saw SpaceIL's spacecraft grounded permanently, the team is confident that December's launch will take place on time. The spacecraft will weigh 585 kilograms at launch but will land on the lunar surface with only 180 kilos.
The initiative aims to raise interest in space and science among Israelis and encourage the younger generations to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professions. In recent years, SpaceIL has ignited the imagination of about 900,000 children nationwide, with the help of a broad network of volunteers.
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