Israeli engineers added the last element to a Moon-targeted spaceship on Monday – a digital time capsule – and said they wanted to land the ship somewhere between the Apollo 15 and 17 landing grounds early next year.
It will be the first mission of its kind since 2013, and if successful, Israel will be the fourth country to perform a controlled "soft" landing of an unmanned vessel on the Moon.
Since 1966, the United States and the former Soviet Union have put about a dozen of them on the moon, and China did so last in 2013.
"The spacecraft is fully built, tested and will ship in weeks to Cape Canaveral weeks ago," said Ido Anteby, CEO of Non-Profit Organization SpaceIL, who led the project.
Israel has previously launched satellites, but this is the first longer-range Israeli spacecraft of its kind.
The boat, called Beresheet, Hebrew for Genesis, has the shape of a round table with four carbon fiber legs, is about 1.5 meters tall and weighs 585 kg. The fuel accounts for two-thirds of this weight.
It will launch a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida in the next few months after a first December deadline has been pushed back.
The time capsule consists of a single, space-tight disk about the size of a CD containing digital files of children's drawings, photographs, and information about Israeli culture and human history.
"The capsule will stay on the moon and stay in the vicinity of the moon, and maybe in a few decades someone will send a spaceship to bring it back," Anteby said.
Beresheet also carries a device for measuring the magnetic fields of the Moon.
SpaceIL is primarily supported by private donors, including US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and billionaire Morris Kahn, co-founder of Amdocs, one of Israel's largest high-tech companies.
SpaceIL was founded in 2011 by a group of engineers with a budget of approximately $ 95 million. State defense entrepreneur Israel Aerospace Industries has been involved in the project.
At a height of 60,000 km (37,000 miles) above Earth, the spacecraft will split off from the Falcon launch vehicle. It will first orbit the Earth in expanding ellipses, and about two months later will go into the orbit of the Moon. It then slows down and makes a soft landing that should not damage the vehicle.
"Our landing site is located somewhere between the Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 airfields," Anteby said. "It's a flat area, but there are small craters and many boulders."