Israel plans to land unmanned spacecraft on moon in February

Screen capture from video of a press conference displaying the SpaceIL moon craft

Israel will be the fourth nation on the planet to land a spacecraft on the moon, when its SpaceIL touches down on Earth's only natural satellite on February 13, 2019.

The cameras inbuilt in the spacecraft shall be taking pictures and videos of the moon's surface and its magnetometer measures the moon's magnetic field.

The other countries to have done so are Russian Federation, the United States and China.

The lunar landing will culminate eight years of intensive collaboration between SpaceIL and IAI, and will make Israel the fourth country after the U.S., China and Russian Federation to reach the moon.

SpaceIL is backed mainly by private donors, including U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and billionaire Morris Kahn who co-founded Amdocs, one of Israel's biggest high-tech companies.

SpaceIL originally vied for Google's Lunar Xprize, but the $20 million competition was scrapped in March after none of the companies met the deadline.

Yossi Weiss, CEO of IAI, said conquering space is not just a way to prove technological prowess, but also an increasingly urgent need for a human race rapidly dilapidating its resources. Filled with fuel, it would weigh 585 kilograms when it will be launched, but it should land on the Moon weighing only 180 kilograms as it would burn off most of the fuel.

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"We're trying to replicate the Apollo effect in the US", Kahn said, referring to the US programme that landed the first humans on the moon in 1969.

Since SpaceIL's establishment, the mission of landing an Israeli spacecraft on the moon has become a national project embodying educational values, funded by donors such as Dr. Miriam and Mr. Sheldon Adelson, Mr. Sammy Sagol, Mrs. Lynn Schusterman, Mr. Steven Grand and others.

The first stage of the lander will hoist the Israeli flag on the moon, he explained.

SpaceIL, an Israeli initiative group for space exploration, announced that as soon as in the end of 2018 the first lunar orbiter will be launched. Upon receipt of a command from the control room, the spacecraft will enter a higher altitude elliptical orbit around Earth, which will reach a point near the moon. This will take about two days to finish.

The Israeli-built unmanned spacecraft is expected to take about two months to reach the Moon, reports the Times of Israel. The competition ended officially with no victor on March 31, when Google announced that it would no longer sponsor it.

It is hoped the mission's success will inspire scientific curiosity among Israeli youth.

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