Israel is about to write history by launching the first private spacecraft to the moon this week, the developers behind the lunar mission reported Tuesday.
The landing craft, called Beresheet, is scheduled to be launched on February 22nd and is expected to land on the lunar on April 11, according to a joint press release from Israel Aerospace Industries and non-profit SpaceIL, which is owned by the government.
Beresheet is powered by an American SpaceX rocket and the launch site is located in the US state of Florida.
The launch of Beresheet, or Genesis in Hebrew, is a historic event because it is "the first spacecraft to land on the moon as a result of a private initiative, rather than a government," IAI and SpaceIL said in the press release.
"Eight years ago we ventured on this journey that is now approaching in about two months as we land on the moon," SpaceIL President Morris Kahn said in the press release.
"We are making history and are proud to be part of a group that has dreamed and realized the vision that many countries in the world share, but so far only three have realized," Kahn said.
If the mission turns out to be a success, Israel will become the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon, after the Soviet Union, the United States and China.
"The journey to the moon is full of challenges, but thanks to the professionalism, determination and trust of all partners in the project, an Israeli spacecraft will be launched on the moon in the coming days," said IAI CEO Nimrod Sheffer.
"Together with our partners at SpaceIL, IAI will continue to do everything it needs to ensure the success of this mission," Sheffer adds.
Beresheet weighs only about 600 kgr, which is considered the smallest spacecraft by weight. It is about 1.5 meters tall, 2 meters in diameter and carries fuel that accounts for about 75 percent of its weight, according to developers.
The spacecraft will make its journey of 6.5 million km with a maximum speed of 10 km per second, or 36,000 km per hour.
Beresheet arose from the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, which offered a US $ 30 million reward for encouraging privately funded teams to be the first to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon.
The competition ended without a winner in March 2018. However, SpaceIL announced that it would continue to work on its mission.