JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel advanced in the space race Friday as a company sent the first-ever private spacecraft to land on the moon.
A dramatic nighttime launch from Cape Canaveral sent Israel’s privately funded lunar lander on its way to a rendezvous with history. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on hand in the control room.
"It's a big step for Israel but a giant step for Israeli technology. The strength of Israel in the world is rising, rising, rising and rising to the moon,” Netanyahu said.
— Amb. Ron Dermer (@AmbDermer) February 22, 2019
The spacecraft is called “Beresheet,” a reference to the words "in the beginning" from Genesis. While only about the size of a washing machine, its mission is out of this world.
מרגש מאוד להשתתף בשיגור החללית הישראלית הראשונה לירח. ישראל היא כוח עולמי עולה! pic.twitter.com/nRnXwHeVNE
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) February 22, 2019
After launching from Cape Canaveral, the spacecraft will make several lunar orbits before attempting a soft landing on the moon’s surface.
The forty-day voyage culminates with a landing scheduled for April 11th. It will then send back video and high-resolution pictures and perform experiments. The mission has two goals. One is called the "Apollo Effect,” hoping to inspire the next generation.
"We want the Israeli kids and the Israeli youth to, we want to encourage them to learn STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and informatics - and we hope that they will have this mission we will create the effect and encourage them. The second goal is to promote the space industry here in Israel … And I think we got it - one of the goals is already achieved,” explained Dr. Ido Antebi, CEO of SpaceIL.
Antebi says SpaceIL wants to show that a small country, with a small budget can join the prestigious moon landing club of the US, Russia, and China.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin calls the venture “Zionism at its finest.”
The spacecraft is also bringing a time capsule including a miniature copy of the Bible, along with Israeli national symbols, including the saying "Am Israel Chai": The People of Israel Live.