SpaceX Just Launched Israel's Lunar Lander off to the Moon

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"After the launch, our crew will take control of Beresheet and begin the journey to the moon!"

A Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Thursday night at 8:45 p.m. (ET) carrying the privately-funded Beresheet lunar lander.

SpaceX is launching Israel's first mission to the moon tonight and live streaming the historic liftoff for fans. It would also mark the first time a private lander reached the moon.

An artist's impression of SpaceIL's lunar lander, Beresheet, landing on the moon. NASA has a laser reflector aboard Beresheet and is offering its Deep Space Network for communication.

The initial project was conceived in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition to successfully land an unmanned probe on the Moon, which was eventually discontinued before a victor was declared since no competitors were able to complete their projects by the March 31, 2018, deadline.

Although the primary payload for this mission was Indonesia's satellite, named Nusantara Satu, the tiny moon lander that hitched a ride with the satellite as a secondary payload stole the show today.

During its first Falcon Heavy launch in February 2018, the firm landed two of the firms side boosters simultaneously on separate launchpads.

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"At SpaceIL we hope that the next generation of engineers and scientists will be able to bring Beresheet back to Earth", the company said.

"This time, when we go to the Moon, we're actually going to stay", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last week.

"There is a lot of interest internationally on the moon", Bridenstine said. Space Systems Loral took on that responsibility, signing up rideshare broker Spaceflight Inc. of Seattle, Washington, which then secured Israel's 600-kilogram Beresheet lander and the Air Force Research laboratory's 60-kilogram S5 smallsat.

SpaceX described the booster recovery - its 34th - as facing "some of the most challenging reentry conditions to date". A time capsule is aboard the lander - which includes a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003 - as well as a lunar library containing 30 million pages on a disk from the US -based Arch Mission Foundation.

As seen from the launch site, the distant glow of the returning booster rocket was visible in the sky just as the moon appeared over the horizon.

'This is Uber-style space exploration, so we're riding shotgun on the rocket, ' Winetraub explained at a news conference on the eve of launch. The main payload is an Indonesian communications satellite called "Nusantara Satu" (also called PSN 6).

Also piggybacking on the flight will be a US Air Force experiment called Air Force Research Laboratory S5 - a microsatellite that's created to detect objects that orbit Earth near a region called geostationary orbit (which is about 22,300 miles away from the planet's surface).

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