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Israeli Moon Lander Phones Home, Deploys Legs

23 February 2019

The lander, named "Beresheet" was built by a non-profit called SpaceIL and was a finalist in Google's $20 million Lunar Xprize competition.

Israel's first spacecraft built to land on the moon was set for launch on Thursday from Florida on a mission that, if successful, would make the Jewish state only the fourth nation to achieve a controlled touchdown on the lunar surface. SpaceX also launched and recovered its first-stage booster on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, despite what it called hard landing conditions.

Israel will launch its spacecraft dubbed "Beresheet", or "beginning" in Hebrew, in the nation's first mission to land on the Moon's surface. Beresheet and PSN-6 will now take opposite paths forward, with the lunar lander raising its orbit quite literally to the Moon while PSN-6 drops its high end down and circularizes at approximately 35,800 km (22,250 mi) above Earth.

It was backed notably by businessman and philanthropist Morris Kahn, who financed the development of a craft.

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All these launched from the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Air Force station.

The mission is part of 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.

Once deployed, the spacecraft will enter a gradually widening Earth orbit that will eventually bring the probe within the moon's gravitational pull, setting the stage for a series of additional maneuvers leading to an automated touchdown. As we better understand Israel's capabilities and the innovative work of their private industry, we know they'll be an even stronger worldwide partner in the future, one vital to the success of extending commercial space to the Moon and eventually on to Mars and beyond.

The 32-minute launch window opens at 8:45 p.m. EST, or 1:45 UTC on February 22.

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We received the first sign of life & data from #Beresheet & the #spacecraft deployed its landing legs as expected.

In addition to a textbook launch and payload deployments, SpaceX scored yet another success in its pioneering technology for recycling its own rockets.

SpaceIL co-founder Yonatan Weintraub told Fox News in a statement, "After more than eight years of working with brilliant engineers, we are finally ready to launch our spacecraft to the Moon!"

On Friday, NASA is expected to decide whether to give its final go-ahead to SpaceX for a first, unmanned test flight on March 2 of a new capsule created to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

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The launch was the second of the year for SpaceX.

Israeli Moon Lander Phones Home, Deploys Legs