The Beresheet robotic lunar lander launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket yesterday evening (Feb. 21), on a mission to become the first privately funded craft - and the first developed by any entity other than the Soviet Union, the United States or China - to land on the moon.
The unmanned craft, weighing 1,300 pounds and standing approximately five feet tall, began an approximate seven-week journey to the moon, from where it will send back images of the rocky surface and conduct experiments on the lunar magnetic field.
That touchdown try won't take place until April 11.
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.
Meanwhile, Beresheet, the Air Force Research Laboratory's S5 satellite, and the primary payload, Nusantara Saru, pushed on to orbit.
All these launched from the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Air Force station. It will also be the first non-governmental spacecraft to reach the moon.
While most rocket launches carry one payload, "ride-sharing" and secondary loads are becoming far more common in the industry.
The four-legged Beresheet, barely the size of a washing machine, will circle Earth in ever bigger loops until it's captured by lunar gravity and goes into orbit around the moon.
An hour after launch, Beresheet's engineers reported that the spacecraft had deployed its landing legs as expected, and was sending back its first signs of life, indicating a safe entry into space. In addition to Kahn, Dr Miriam Adelson, an Israeli-American doctor and philanthropist, and her husband, casino magnate and investor Sheldon Adelson, contributed $US24 million to keep the lunar lander soaring. They were deployed shortly after, at 44 minutes after launch.
SpaceIL was founded eight years ago to compete in the Google Lunar X Prize, an worldwide competition to see whether a private enterprise could land a spacecraft on the moon, move 500 meters in any direction, and transmit live, high-definition video from the lunar surface.
The launch was SpaceX's second of the year, following a January launch for low-Earth-orbit satellite operator Iridium.