Israel's first lunar lander launched into space from Florida

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Israel's first spacecraft created to land on the moon lifts off on the first privately-funded lunar mission at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2019.

The Beresheet will be the smallest spacecraft to ever land on the Moon, according to SpaceX.

Once Beresheet completes its lunar mission, Israel would join superpowers China, Russia, and the United States in landing a spacecraft on the moon.

The journey to the surface of the moon is expected to take eight weeks.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches two satellites and Israel's first moon lander on February 21, 2019. 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". Beresheet took off from from Cape Canaveral on one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets at 8:45 Eastern time tonight. The lander will use a thruster from Norwegian supplier Nammo to reach the moon, and to conduct a 500-meter "hop" to another location on the lunar surface.

Once Beresheet's two days are up, the dead spacecraft won't be entirely useless.

Beresheet lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 3:45 time a.m. Israel time (8:45 p.m. Thursday EST), catching a ride on one of Elon Musk's SpaceX commercial space launches.

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Beresheet is scheduled to reach the moon around April 4, then attempt a landing on April 11.

Musk said the booster will fly a fourth time in April, during a launch abort test of the new crew Dragon capsule.

The Beresheet mission originally was part of the Google Lunar XPrize competition and even made the final cut before the contest ended past year without a victor.

"We have a vision to show off Israel's best qualities to the entire world", Sylvan Adams, a SpaceIL donor and Canadian-Israeli philanthropist, said during a pre-launch briefing in Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday (Feb. 20). The satellite, built by SSL for Asian telecommunications company PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN), will be used to hopefully improve internet connectivity across the Indonesian archipelago.

The lander, named Beresheet (meaning "in the beginning" in Hebrew), was built by the Israeli nonprofit organization SpaceIL, which began working on this mission in 2011 as a contestant in the Google Lunar X Prize.

If successful, Beresheet will end up as the prototype for a series of future moon landing missions planned jointly by IAI and Germany's OHB System on behalf of the European Space Agency.

Spaceflight Industries, a Seattle-based launch services and mission management group, helped find space for SpaceIL's lander inside the SpaceX payload. But the group behind SpaceIL made a decision to continue its mission, turning to donors to help fund the barebones operation.

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