Israel Plans to Land Unmanned Spacecraft on Moon in February

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An Israeli organisation announced plans today to launch the country's first spacecraft to the moon in December, with hopes of burnishing Israel's reputation as a small nation with otherworldly high-tech ambitions. "The excellent teams of SpaceIL and IAI are working with determination to complete this unique technological challenge in time for the launch date this December".

The only entities to have conducted controlled landings on the Moon are the governments of the former Soviet Union, the United States, and China.

SpaceIL will ship the as yet unnamed module to the United States in November ahead of the launch.

SpaceIL plans to have Israel be the fourth country in the world to launch their spacecraft to the moon.

About it reports Reuters with a reference to the Executive Director SpaceIL IDO Anteby. Its maximum speed will reach more than 10 km per second (36,000 kilometers, or almost 22,370 miles, per hour).

The spacecraft will be launched this December, as a payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the US, before landing on the moon two months later, SpaceIL said in a statement.

SpaceIL was the only Israeli contestant in the global Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) competition, which had offered a prize of $20 million to the first privately funded team to put a robot down on the moon, move it at least 1,650 feet and have it beam high-definition photos and video to Earth.

Anteby said the SpaceIL craft - bearing an Israeli flag - will disengage from the launch rocket at an altitude of 60,000 kilometers (37,282 miles) and will begin orbiting Earth in elliptical orbits. If it does manage to reach the Moon, it will be the smallest craft to make a touchdown there. The team says it will be the smallest spacecraft to land on the moon.

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First landing on the Moon was performed by USSR back to the 1959.

So it looks like this particular spacecraft and mission will be taking one of the first moon selfies.

The probe weighs approximately 600kg on Earth but that weight will drop down to 180kg in the Moon's lower gravity pull.

The plan calls for the lander to execute a series of in-space maneuvers, then touch down on the lunar surface next February to transmit imagery and measure the moon's magnetic field.

Although the Google prize expired in March without a victor having reached the moon, Israel's team pledged to push forward.

The program has always had STEM education as a secondary goal, aiming to encourage Israeli children to choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

But SpaceIL has continued to work on its moon mission.

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