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Israel's lunar effort proceeds apace toward 2015 landing goal

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While China basks in the glory of being the third country to land on the moon, a group called SpaceIl has reached a milestone in an effort to make the State of Israel the fourth country, according to a December 29, 2013 article in the Times of Israel.

The group, with 250 volunteers and a large number of corporate sponsors, has developed a propulsion system that is hoped will take Israel’s lunar lander to the moon’s surface after it is launched as a secondary payload on a commercial space flight. The probe, being developed under the auspices of the Google Lunar X Prize, would be the lightest object to ever touch down on the moon should it succeed.

“The entire thing, including the propulsion system, will weigh less than 150 kilograms (330 pounds). The probe itself – the only part of the craft that will actually reach the moon – will weigh no more than 40 kilograms, with the rest taken up by the engines and fuel tanks (the fuel tanks and fuel weigh 90 kilograms). It’s a long way to the moon, though – 384,000 kilometers – so in order to save on fuel and weight, the SpaceIL craft will hitch a ride with a commercial satellite rocket that will take it beyond the atmosphere, ejecting it after passing the earth’s field of gravity. The organization is currently discussing several launch possibilities, it said.

“The SpaceIL craft won’t just be very light; it will be very small, as well. The probe will measure less than a meter long, making it the smallest probe ever to hit the lunar surface. Though small in volume, the probe will be rich in technology, with advanced cameras, computers, and recording equipment installed to record the adventure and transmit data back to earth. Its small size, the SpaceIL team hopes, will give Team Israel’s probe a leg up on other competitors.”

Israel, though a small country, is technologically advanced, on par with any other western nation. Its space efforts, thus far, have been largely military in nature. If SpaceIl succeeds in landing a package on the moon, it will have entered the civilian space world with a vengeance, garnering Israel a great deal of prestige.

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