The USSR did it in 1966 and the U.S. followed just four months later. China pulled it off in 2013 and again just recently, in January 2019. And this April, if all goes according to plan, an Israeli nonprofit organization called SpaceIL will be the next entity to land a spacecraft on the surface of the moon.
SpaceIL’s lunar lander “Beresheet” launched from Cape Canaveral on a used SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Feb. 21, 2019 along with an Indonesian communications satellite and a U.S. Air Force satellite. Over nearly two months, the craft will boost itself into successively longer loops around the planet until reaches the moon.
SpaceIL, the non-profit behind the project, hopes Beresheetwill prove an inspiration to all those who follow its progress. Beresheet is a reference to the first words of the Bible in Hebrew: “In the beginning….”.
Beresheet grew out of the Google Lunar XPRIZE, which offered financial incentives in 2007 to any non-government-funded team that could pull off a Moon landing.
None of the groups that entered the competition managed to meet its deadlines and the offer of prize money was withdrawn, but several of the participants did promise to keep working on their ideas, SpaceIL among them.
Beresheet will travel approximately 6,4 million kilometers (4 million miles) on its journey, circling the earth multiple times to gain speed before it slingshots toward the moon. It is scheduled to land on April 11.