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Israel to launch moon mission from Florida in December

13 July 2018

The "smart spacecraft", developed by Israeli engineers, will be shipped to Cape Canaveral, Florida in November in preparation for the December launch.

SpaceIL's module is to take photos and video of the landing site and measure the moon's magnetic field as part of a scientific experiment designed by Weizmann Institute researchers. Approximately $88 million has been invested in the spacecraft's development and construction, mostly from private donors, project team members said.

Israel, which is practically synonymous with cutting-edge technology, is finally set to join the very small club of countries who have traveled to the moon.

"Our mission was never about winning the prize money - although $20 million would have been nice", said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby.

The project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which offered $30 million (25 million euros) in prizes to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to come up with relatively low-priced moon missions.

The 2 meter-by-1.5 meter vehicle weighs 600 kilograms (1,323 pounds), making it the smallest spacecraft yet to touch down on the moon. The spacecraft will have a magnetometer to find out how rocks on the moon got their magnetism.

"What we're doing is we're trying to replicate the Apollo effect in the United States", Kahn told reporters, referring to the surge in interest in science and engineering after the USA space program landed on the moon in 1969.

The project culminated in the design of an Israeli lunar probe, which SpaceIL claimed would launch regardless of the contest's outcome.

"We will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon", Morris Kahn, one of the project's leaders, said announcing the mission.

SpaceIL plans to have Israel be the fourth country in the world to launch their spacecraft to the moon. This will take about two days to finish. The competition ended officially with no victor on March 31, when Google announced that it would no longer sponsor it. The victor was expected to earn a prize of 20 million dollars to fund the landing of the first non-governmental unmanned spacecraft on the moon.

After succeeding in raising the critical funds to continue its activity, SpaceIL announced that it was determined to continue on its mission and to launch its spacecraft by the end of the year, regardless of the competition.

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.

Israel to launch moon mission from Florida in December