The small country of Israel has become the fourth nation in history to embark on a mission to the moon.
Beresheet, an Israeli space craft, took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida last week and will reach the moon by April 11.
“When the spacecraft lands on the moon during Passover, this is going to be one of the highlights of the State of Israel since its establishment,” Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis said. “This is a national event.”
Beresheet is the Hebrew word for Genesis, “in the beginning.”
Beresheet being loaded onto its launcher, Falcon-9 before its launch. (photo credit: SPACEX COURTESY OF SPACEIL AND IAI)
The private venture is funded by several donors including Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, SpaceIL Chairman Morris Kahn and the Science and Technology Ministry.
“This is the first mission of a small country to the moon, but it’s a non-government mission to the moon, which is privately financed,” SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby said. “It will open new horizons to the moon for commercial opportunities.”
The craft, about the size of a stove, will circle Earth until it enters lunar gravity and goes into orbit around the moon. Beresheet will photograph the landing site on the moon and measure the moon’s magnetic field sending the data back to SpaceIL.
The lunar lander will deposit on the moon a digital time capsule containing the country’s Declaration of Independence, HaTikvah, the national anthem, and other Hebrew songs and stories.
This venture has engendered national pride. Many Israelis woke up in the early morning hours to watch the launch live. Israel is the fourth country after the United States, the former Soviet Union and China to embark on such a mission.