Israel sent a space probe to the moon for the first time. The Beresheet probe began its seven-week journey to Earthbird in the night from the spaceport Cape Canaveral in the state of Florida. There, punctually at 02:45 pm Central European time, a Falcon 9 rocket of the space company SpaceX was launched by Tesla boss Elon Musk. Beresheet is the first lander of a private company to dock on the moon. Onboard the rocket is also the communications satellite PSN 6.
Beresheet was developed by the non-profit company SpaceIL, the cost of approximately € 84 million comes largely from private funds from foundations and donors. Originally the company had started to win the Google Lunar XPrize launched in 2007 – neither you nor the competitors succeeded, but the Israelis fly to the moon anyway.
The Israeli spacecraft weighs just 160 kilograms without fuel. With fuel, the weight is just over half a ton. The vehicle measures around 1.80 meters by 1.20 meters. With four legs spread apart, it should gently set on the lunar surface in the sea of the moon Mare Serenitatis in the northern hemisphere. Then you have to give a sign of life and collect data for two to three days on the magnetic field. The region is known for magnetic anomalies that Beresheet should find out more about. The Rover will not drive, nor bounce after landing, as it was once thought.
For NASA, Beresheet wears a laser retroreflector, for SpaceIL a kind of digital time capsule. It contains thousands of files, including children's drawings, Israeli songs, and a Holocaust account.
Will Israel be number four on the moon?
If the mission succeeds, Israel would be the fourth country to have a successful moon landing (see infobox below). So far, only the United States, the Soviet Union and China, who have recently paid a visit to the remote side of the Moon with their unmanned probe Chang'e 4 at the beginning of the year, succeeded. Chang'e 4 as well as the lunar vehicle Jadehase 2, which she has abandoned, are collecting data. In 2019, China plans another unmanned landing to bring rock samples to Earth.
The US space agency also wants to return to the moon as soon as possible. However, they did not just want to send probes, but to set themselves up permanently, as Nasa director Jim Bridenstine said last week, "It's important that we get back to the moon as soon as possible," said Bridenstine. "This time, when we fly to the moon, we will stay." The big goal is that people can fly back and forth regularly.
In planning is therefore a small space station, which is to circle around the moon. From the earliest 2024, the new outpost is to circumnavigate in a long stretch of track and accommodate up to four people. From this gateway station then at some point flights deeper into space should be possible. Delays are expected.