SpaceX to launch Israel's first Moon lander tonight

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Israeli startup SpaceIL partnering with SpaceX to launch the first private lunar lander to the Moon and China's lunar lander on the far side of the moon.

The craft was developed by Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL as well as the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries.

The U.S. Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon - the only ones yet achieved - between 1969 and 1972, with about a dozen more robotic landings combined by the United States and Soviets. China made history in January with its Chang'e 4, the first to touch down on the dark side of the moon.

The U.S. Air Force also has a small research spacecraft aboard the rocket, for a one-year mission in orbit around Earth.

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Upon landing, Beresheet should transmit data from the moon for about two days. Once it arrives on the lunar surface, it will study the moon's local magnetic field and craters on its two Earth-day surface mission. While Musk has cornered the market on commercial rocket launches, SpaceIL and IAI are hoping to find a niche in low-cost moon landings, so space agencies or, one day, private individuals or organizations, could send cameras and research equipment to the moon for their own purposes. Its creators say they hope Beresheet, which means "In the beginning", in Hebrew, will inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers in Israel and across the world.

But as the competition wore on, it became apparent that none of the companies were going to be able to meet the deadline to land on the moon, and so Google ultimately scrapped the competition in March 2018. But Israel's privately funded lunar lander - a first not just for Israel but commercial space - is generating the buzz. A time capsule is aboard the lander - which includes a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003 - as well as a lunar library containing 30 million pages on a disk from the US -based Arch Mission Foundation.

"In religion and ethics, science and scholarship, we have long reached for the stars; now we are rightfully reaching the moon".

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