RAMAT GAN, Israel – A nonprofit Israeli consortium said on Monday that it hopes to make history this week by launching the first private plane to land on the moon.
SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries told a press conference the landing vessel – called "Beresheet" or Genesis – will depart from Florida, run by a SpaceX Falcon rocket on its week-long journey to the moon.
Launch is scheduled late Thursday in the US, early Friday in Israel. It was originally slated for December last year.
SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby and Opher Doron, general manager of IAI's Space Department, said the spacecraft will slingshot around the ground at least six times to reach the moon and land on its surface on April 1
If the SpaceIL mission is successful, Israel will become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon, after the Soviet Union, the US and China.
SpaceIL has been trying to drum the public's excitement to the moon's mission in Israel in recent months, visiting classrooms around the country and sponsored television commercials that set Israel in the same way as global powers.
The small craft, basically a washing machine, is equipped with instruments for measuring the magnetic field of the moon, as well as a copy of the Bible microscopically etched on a small metal disc.
Israel's space program manager Avi Blasberger said he hopes SpaceIL will create a "Beresheet effe ct" in Israel similar to the Apollo effect, to advance science among a new generation.
Founded in 2011, SpaceIL originally competed for Google's Lunar Xprize, which challenged private companies to try to land a robot object on the moon. But the $ 20 million competition was beaten by tech giant last year when it became clear that none of the five companies would meet a predetermined deadline.
The SpaceIL project has ballooned in cost over the years to around $ 100 million, mainly funded by South African-Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn and other donors from around the world.
Kahn said he believes that "every Jew, not just all Israelis, will remember where he was when Israel landed on the moon."