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SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries plan to launch an unmanned spacecraft to land on the Moon in December 2018.
USA TODAY

The Israeli Space Division and an Israeli space nonprofit organization announced Tuesday that a mission to the Moon will launch in December. If it were successful, the country would be the fourth nation to land on the moon and the first to use a small spaceship.

At a press conference in Yehud, Israel, the Israel Aerospace Industries Space Division and SpaceIL, the nonprofit space agency, announced their plans to launch an unmanned lunar vessel weighing just 1.322 pounds from Cape Canaveral in December in Florida. After a two-day voyage, the spacecraft was to land on the moon on February 13, 2019 to plant an Israeli flag and collect scientific data for two months.

"After eight challenging years, I'm proud to announce that the first Israeli spaceship in its final stages of construction and testing will soon find its way to the moon," said the South African-Israeli billionaire and president of SpaceIL Morris Kahn, in a statement. "The launch of the first Israeli space probe will fill Israel with pride in its 70th year."

Israel Aerospace Industries General Manager Opher Doron speaks next to the SpaceIL moon module in a special "clean room" where the spacecraft is being developed during a press visit their facility near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, July 10, 2018. SpaceIL and the Israeli state-owned aerospace industries are planning to launch their unmanned vessels in December, hoping to become the first non-state spacecraft unit on the Moon. (AP Photo / Ilan Ben Zion) ORG XMIT: DV101 (Photo: Ilan Ben Zion, AP)

The lunar launch is the result of the participation of SpaceIL on [Google-Wettbewerb] Lunar XC Prize promised a prize in $ 20 million for the first non-governmental organization to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon in 2014. Israel joined the competition, where the United States, Russia and China reached the moon.

No organization was able to meet this deadline, however, and the contest ended in March without a winner.

SpaceIL was founded in 2011 by three engineers, Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub, and has partnered with Israel Aeronautics Industries. The group continued to work after the contest ended, hoping to "fulfill the dream of reaching the moon," SpaceIL said.

The plan envisages the small spaceship picking up a rocket from Elon Musks company SpaceX from the launch site in Florida in December. He will then separate from the Falcon over 37,000 miles above ground to enter orbit, expand, and be caught by the moon's gravity.

The organization is making private donations to support their $ 95 million project, with $ 88 million needed to build the spacecraft. Kahn, President of SpaceIL, has donated $ 27 million.

Israel hopes that this space mission will trigger an "Apollo effect", fueling Israelis through the perspective of space and capturing children's thoughts, hoping to inspire them to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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