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First Private Spacecraft Is Headed to the Moon

Israel is aiming to launch an unmanned lander this week
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 18, 2019 8:27 AM CST
Opher Doron, general manager of Israel Aerospace Industries' space division, speaks beside the SpaceIL lunar module, in a "clean room" where the space craft is being developed, near Tel Aviv, Israel,...   (AP Photo/Ilan Ben Zion)
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(Newser) – An Israeli nonprofit says it'll launch what it hopes will be the first private spacecraft to land on the moon this week, reports the AP. SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries told reporters on Monday that the landing craft, dubbed Beresheet, or Genesis, will ship from Florida, where, propelled by a SpaceX Falcon rocket launch, it will commence its months-long voyage to the moon. The small craft, roughly the size of a washing machine, will have to make several orbits before landing.

The lander was born of Israeli aerospace engineer Yonatan Winetraub's determination to win Google's Lunar XPrize, notes NBC News. When he ran into computer engineer Yariv Bash and entrepreneur Kfir Damari, "the three of us sat down in a bar in the suburbs of Tel Aviv, and as the alcohol level went up we were becoming more and more determined to do this thing,” he says. Israel's space program chief Avi Blasberger says he hopes it will create a "Beresheet effect" in Israel, akin to the Apollo effect, to promote science for a new generation of Israelis. The launch is due late Thursday in the US, early Friday in Israel. It had been originally slated for last December.

(Read more lunar exploration stories.)

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