JERUSALEM, Israel – This Friday, Israel will send its first spacecraft to the moon, a feat President Rivlin calls "Zionism at its finest."
Israel's nonprofit SpaceIL organization has announced it will launch a spacecraft from Florida's Cape Canaveral on board a Falcon 9 rocket. It is scheduled to land on the moon on April 11.
The project is eight years in the making and if successful, Israel will become the fourth nation to land on the moon – after the US, Russia, and China.
The mission was a collaborative effort between SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries.
The spacecraft is called "Bereishit," a reference to the first words of the Bible recorded in Genesis: "In the beginning."
The craft weighs about 1,300 pounds and is about the size of a washing machine. It will take a seven-week journey to the moon.
Dr. Ido Antebi, the CEO of SpaceIL said the mission has two goals. one is called the "Apollo Effect," to inspire the next generation of Israeli youth in the start-up nation.
"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."
The mission will last two to three days and once it lands, the craft will take pictures of the lunar surface and conduct experiments.
The spacecraft is also bringing God's written word to the moon. It will carry a time capsule containing a database of hundreds of files. The files include a copy of the Bible, information about SpaceIL, Israeli national symbols, and other materials.
The capsule will be left on the moon's surface after Israel completes its mission there.
SpaceIL presented the privately funded project to President Reuven Rivlin Sunday.
Rivlin said it was a dream come true.
"'Bereishit' will make history!" He said. "When I was a child, we used to write fortunes on bubblegum wrappers – 'by the time you're 21, you'll go to the moon'. Then, it seemed fantastical, impossible. Until now, only great powers have landed on the moon – the United States, the Soviet Union and China. But if everything goes to plan, the State of Israel – our young and small country – will be the fourth country in history to land a spacecraft on the moon."
A model of the spacecraft is on display at the President's official residence.
"I am delighted and proud that you decided to turn this project into not just a wonderful technological achievement, but also an educational undertaking. You are an example of groundbreaking, audacious Israeli innovation. This is Zionism at its finest," Rivlin said.
Morris Kahn, President of Space IL, thanked the president, saying "It is a tremendous achievement and I am proud to be part of it, and that the Israeli flag will soon fly on the moon."
Bereishit will travel a bit approximately 4 million miles on its journey. It will orbit the earth multiple times to gain enough speed to shoot towards the moon.