Space IL has successfully launched the first private spacecraft to the Moon.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Thursday, 21 February 2019, carrying the Beresheet spacecraft. Beresheet, meaning beginning or genesis in Hebrew, will land on the lunar surface in approximately sixty days and will make Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
Beresheet was the brainchild of Yonatan Winetraub, a young engineer, who envisioned an Israeli team entering the Google Lunar X Prize Competition, and landing an Israeli spacecraft on the moon, while he was attending the International Space University Space Studies Program held at the NASA Ames Center in Mountain View, California in 2009. He teamed up with fellow engineers Yariv Bash, and Kfir Damari and the three co-founded SpaceIL, an Israeli non-profit, in 2011 to compete for the Prize but also to promote the advancement of science and technology education in Israel. SpaceIL sought to create an “Apollo Effect” to inspire the next generation in Israel and around the world to think differently about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Beresheet is carrying various scientific payloads including the Lunar Magnetometer (LMAG) — to study the magnetic phenomenon whose secrets are kept in the moon crystal rocks. The lander will also be carrying a time capsule including digital files with dictionaries in 27 languages and encyclopedias, an indication of knowledge accumulated by all humanity as well as a bible, a Holocaust survivor’s memories and children’s drawings of space and other items from art, science literature and technology.
Yonatan was part of the Ilon Ramon Project for Innovation which was established to honour Israeli astronaut, Ilon Ramon who died in the Colombia mission. The Project aims to attract young Israeli space talent with backgrounds in technology, science, medicine and other space activities to allow them to continue their pursuit of knowledge on the international stage while attending the prestigious International Space University.
Yonatan Winetraub said, “Today’s launch is the culmination of a decade of effort that globally nearly everyone argued was an impossible mission. I am blown away by the solidarity and support of thousands of people that made this dream a reality. This dream was made possible by the Ilan Ramon Project for Innovation, Entrepreneurism and Space at the International Space University and for that I am eternally grateful.”
Co-founder of the scholarship project, Michael Potter, remarked, “Ilan Ramon inspired an entire nation, and it is only fitting that his scholarship has sparked not only such a historic achievement for Israel, but has energized the next generation to use their talents to reach the stars.”