Initially, this plan was part of a competition that Google set up called the Lunar XPrize. It will take about two months for the spacecraft to reach its destination after launch.
While famed entrepreneur Elon Musk sent one of his Tesla cars into space last year on top of his SpaceX rocket, this year, Musk will help deliver Israel's first unmanned lunar spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, where it will assume a course that will take it to its final destination: the moon.
SpaceIL was founded in 2011 by a group of engineers with a budget of about $90 million and they had to sacrifice size and operational capabilities for more efficient travel. At 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds), it will be the smallest spaceship so far to make a lunar landing.
(R - L) Head of IAI's space division, Head of IAI's space division, Ofer Doron, SpaceIL CEO Dr. Ido Anteby, president of the non-profit organization SpaceIL Morris Kahn, Space IL founder Kfir Damari, SpaceIL founder Yariv Bash, and Aviad Shmaryahu of the Israel Space Agency.
Israeli billionaire and investor Morris Kahn (left) answers journalists' questions in front of a Israeli Aerospace Industries spacecraft during a news conference Tuesday to announce its launch to the moon, in Yehud, Eastern Tel Aviv.
The project culminated in the design of an Israeli lunar probe, which SpaceIL claimed would launch regardless of the contest's outcome.
After succeeding in raising the critical funds to continue its activity, SpaceIL announced that it was determined to continue on its mission and to launch its spacecraft by the end of the year, regardless of the competition. "It is a national accomplishment that will put us on the world's space map". Its maximum speed will reach more than 10 km per second (36,000 kilometers, or almost 22,370 miles, per hour). It will begin orbiting Earth on an elliptical path. As soon as the spacecraft reaches the landing point it will be completely autonomous.
The entire journey, from launch to landing, is expected to last about eight weeks. The data will be transmitted to the IAI control room during the two days following the landing.
For children from any country, SpaceIL introduced its Moon Kids website in English, chock full of fun interactive content about the moon and outer space. Over the years, additional partners from the private sector, from government companies and from the academia have joined as well.
IAI CEO Josef Weiss said he regards the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon as an example of the wonderful capabilities once can reach in civilian space activity.