SpaceX Is Launching Three Spacecraft Tonight-Including an Israeli Moon Lander

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

It will take 40 days total for the spacecraft to reach the Moon, followed by another week in lunar orbit before landing. It would also mark the first time a private lander reached the moon.

The spacecraft, called "Beresheet", a reference to the first words of the Bible in Hebrew: "In the beginning.", was launched into space at 8:45 p.m. local time.

Once Beresheet completes its lunar mission, Israel would join superpowers China, Russia, and the United States in landing a spacecraft on the moon. The mission is part of the renewed global interest in the Moon, sometimes called the "eighth continent" of the Earth, and comes 50 years after American astronauts first walked on the lunar surface.

Entrepreneurs, not government space agencies, financed the mission, which was initially projected at $10 million but eventually grew to $100 million. According to SpaceX, Falcon 9 B1048's third successful launch and landing faced the Block 5 booster with "some of the most challenging reentry conditions to date". The unmanned craft is set to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Thursday, attached to a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It is scheduled to land on April 11. "Israel is aiming for the #moon and you're all invited to watch", said a Twitter message from SpaceIL, the non-profit organization that designed the Israeli craft.

SpaceIL's Beresheet robot is just one of several spacecraft "ridesharing" on the rocket.

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It is also carrying an Indonesian telecommunications satellite and an experimental US Air Force satellite.

"Nusantara Satu is Indonesia's first high-throughput satellite that will serve to improve internet connectivity in the region", SpaceX said in a press release.

The Nusantara Satu Mission launched Thursday evening by SpaceX. Beresheet-which is roughly the size of a washing machine-will beam back images of the lunar surface and carry out measurements of the lunar magnetic field. This graphic reveals just how big it is - and what's out there. In addition to the launch being the 70th successful one for SpaceX it was the 20th one in which a booster was successfully reused.

Musk said the booster will fly a fourth time in April, during a launch abort test of the new crew Dragon capsule. Space Systems Loral took on that responsibility, signing up rideshare broker Spaceflight Inc. of Seattle, Washington, which then secured Israel's 600-kilogram Beresheet lander and the Air Force Research laboratory's 60-kilogram S5 smallsat. If the mission gets scrubbed because of wind, rain, or technical issues, SpaceX will have another chance tomorrow to try again.

Those first two milestones were checked off within 2 minutes of each other, about 40 minutes after the 8:45 p.m. EST (0145 GMT on February 22) liftoff, mission team members said.

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