Editor’s note: SpaceIL’s lander launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida the evening of Feb. 21, 2019 (1:45 UTC Feb. 22).
The last screw is tightened and a private Moon lander is packed in the fairing atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It took eight years to get there, plus significant dedication by a small group of scientists and engineers building Israel’s first machine to leave Earth’s orbit. Now, the highly anticipated moment is here: a shot at the first private Moon landing, and NASA is contributing to the experiment.
An Israeli spacecraft from SpaceIL is scheduled to launch Thursday, Feb. 21 and is aiming to touch down on Mare Serenitatis two months later. NASA installed a small laser retroreflector aboard the lander to test its potential as a navigation tool. The agency also provided images of the Moon’s surface to help the engineers identify a landing site for the mission. NASA will also use its deep space telecommunications network to transmit images and science data home to SpaceIL and its partners. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine signed an agreement with the Israel Space Agency (ISA) in July 2018 in order to collaborate with SpaceIL on the mission. SpaceIL will provide NASA scientific data from the spacecraft’s magnetometer as part of the collaboration.
“This is the type of collaboration that will become more frequent as NASA looks to expand opportunities with a greater variety of partners to continue the exploration of the Moon and Mars,” said Steve Clarke, NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration. “NASA is proud to work with the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and SpaceIL and we look forward to the landing and the science data that will be gained from this important mission.” More