FIRST PRI­VATE IS­RAELI LU­NAR MIS­SION WILL LAUNCH IN FEB­RU­ARY

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An Is­raeli non­profit said it has pushed back the launch of what it hopes will be the first pri­vate space­craft to land on the moon un­til Feb­ru­ary.

Of­fi­cials from SpaceIL and its project part­ner, the state-owned Is­rael Aero­space In­dus­tries, an­nounced that the land­ing craft, dubbed “Beresheet,” or Ge­n­e­sis, will ship in Feb­ru­ary to Florida. Pro­pelled by a SpaceX Fal­con rocket launch, the ro­botic lan­der will then com­mence its months-long voy­age to the moon. It had been slated to launch this month.

SpaceIL said it had no con­trol over the launch’s de­lay, and that SpaceX, the pri­vate space ex­plo­ration com­pany founded by en­tre­pre­neur Elon Musk, no­ti­fied them that its rocket will now lift off in Feb­ru­ary 2019 with­out pro­vid­ing an ex­pla­na­tion.

Is­rael Aero­space In­dus­tries man­ager Opher Doron stressed that the small craft, roughly the size of a wash­ing ma­chine, faces a “dif­fi­cult, ar­du­ous jour­ney” be­cause it will have to make sev­eral or­bits be­fore touch­ing down on the moon. Upon land­ing, the craft is to re­lay pho­to­graphs and col­lect data about the moon’s ever-chang­ing mag­netism for re­search by Is­rael’s Weiz­mann In­sti­tute and NASA.

SpaceIL rep­re­sen­ta­tives pre­sented a time cap­sule that will ac­com­pany the space­craft to the moon.

The cap­sule, in the shape of a DVD, holds pic­tures of the Is­raeli pub­lic, in­ter­pre­tive draw­ings by Is­raeli chil­dren and other pieces of na­tional mem­o­ra­bilia, in­clud­ing sto­ries of Holo­caust sur­vivors.

“We hope that far in the fu­ture, when travel to the moon is as com­mon as trans-At­lantic travel, that chil­dren will be able to un­der­stand the lives of their Is­raeli an­ces­tors through this ar­chive on the moon,” said SpaceIL co-founder Yonatan Wine­traub.

A crowd of Is­raeli re­porters, clad in san­i­tized white coats, burst into ap­plause as Wine­traub fas­tened the cap­sule to the un­der­belly of the craft.

SpaceIL was founded in 2011 and orig­i­nally vied for Google’s Lu­nar Xprize, which chal­lenged pri­vate com­pa­nies to try to land an un­manned space­craft on the moon.

But the $20 mil­lion com­pe­ti­tion was scrapped by the tech gi­ant ear­lier this year when it be­came clear none of the five com­pa­nies would meet a March dead­line.

SpaceIL has vowed to con­tinue the mis­sion and hopes that its am­bi­tious $95 mil­lion project, largely funded by South African-Is­raeli bil­lion­aire Mor­ris Kahn and other donors, will spur a new wave of com­mer­cial mis­sions to the moon and jump-start new com­pa­nies.

Is­rael would be­come the fourth coun­try to land a craft on the moon, af­ter the U.S., the Soviet Union and China.

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