Israeli company plans lunar landing next year

Moon landing SpaceIL lunar probe

SpaceIL is backed mainly by private donors, including US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and billionaire Morris Kahn who co-founded Amdocs, one of Israel's biggest high-tech companies. Upon landing, the craft will relay photographs and collect data about the moon's magnetism for research by Israel's Weizmann Institute.

South African-Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn, president of SpaceIL, who has donated $27 million to the enterprise, was extremely excited: "The launch of the first Israeli spacecraft will fill Israel, in its 70th year, with pride".

SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries have raised $88 million (£$66 million, AU$118 million) primarily from private donors to fund the project over the past eight years.

The space agency will launch its lunar probe onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket by the end of the current year, with plans to land on the moon by mid-February 2019.

SpaceIL's project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which offered $30m (£23m) in prizes to inspire people to develop low-priced methods of robotic space exploration. The team says it will be the smallest spacecraft to land on the moon.

It is about 2m (6.6ft) in diameter and 1.5m high, and will weigh only 585kg (1,300lb) at launch. More than 400kg of that weight is fuel that will be burnt off by the time it lands on the Moon.

Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid to join Italian club Juventus
He added that the loss of Zinedine Zidane, who has been replaced by Julen Lopetegui at Real, doesn't change the club's appeal. Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo is moving to Juventus in a transfer deal worth in the region of £105m.

SpaceIL, a nonprofit founded in 2010, said on its website it's the only Israeli team participating in the Google Lunar XPrize competition - a competition to land the first privately-funded unmanned spacecraft on the moon. Other countries also have groups in the competition, including the United States, Japan and India.

Mr Kahn said he hoped the mission would create an "Apollo effect" for the next generation in Israel - a reference to the enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and maths triggered by Neil Armstrong's Moon walk in 1969.

Josef Weiss, IAI CEO said, "As one who has personally brought the collaboration with SpaceIL to IAI, I regard the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon as an example of the wonderful capabilities one can reach in civilian-space activity".

"This is a tremendous project", Kahn said.

It will be launched via a rocket from American entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX firm and its mission will include research on the moon's magnetic field.

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