An Israeli spacecraft blasted off to the moon in an attempt to make the countryâ€™s first lunar landing, following a launch Thursday night by SpaceX.
The static fire test for the launch was completed on Monday with the first launch window opening on Thursday, there was a backup window scheduled for Friday just in case the first launch had to be scrubbed.
The launch is the start of the Nusantara Satu mission for SpaceX involving an Indonesian communications satellite.
The lander, named "Beresheet" was built by a non-profit called SpaceIL and was a finalist in Google's $20 million Lunar Xprize competition. The first soft landing on the moon came in 1966; executed by both the both Russian Federation and the United States; there was not another unmanned soft landing until China launched Chang'e 3 in 2013.
Beresheet's mission to the near-side of the moon after a 4 million mile journey through space.
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.More news: Nationals not out of Bryce Harper sweepstakes
The spacecraft will slingshot around Earth for about six weeks, firing thrusters to stretch out its orbit with every pass until it can be captured by the moon's gravity.
The U.S. Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon - the only ones yet achieved - between 1969 and 1972, with about a dozen more robotic landings combined by the United States and Soviets. So did NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who called it "a historic step for all nations and commercial space as we look to extend our collaborations beyond low-Earth orbit and on to the moon". The trajectory will degrade until a landing on the moon's northern hemisphere can be made. He said it was thrilling to witness the launch in person and to know Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was watching it live from the control center in Yehud, Israel.
SpaceX is broadcasting the launch of its mission starting 15 minutes before launch, or around 8:30 p.m. this evening.
First Beresheet will orbit the Earth for not quite two months. NASA has a laser reflector aboard Beresheet and is offering its Deep Space Network for communication. It doesn't contain much in the way of instruments, carrying a laser retroreflector array from NASA to aid with ground tracking and a magnetometer to measure the magnetic field above and on the spacecraft's landing site. The lander will use a thruster from Norwegian supplier Nammo to reach the moon, and to conduct a 500-meter "hop" to another location on the lunar surface. This helps explain why Beresheet is taking such a long and circuitous route to the moon - the lander didn't have its own dedicated rocket to launch it on a direct path.