SpaceX successfully launches rocket with Israel's Beresheet craft

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The lander will use a thruster from Norwegian supplier Nammo to reach the moon, and to conduct a 500-meter "hop" to another location on the lunar surface. The two others are a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force.

"We thought it's about time for a change, and we want to get little Israel all the way to the moon", said Yonatan Winetraub, co-founder of Israel's SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization behind the effort.

At the end of its brief mission, mission controllers plan to simply shut down the spacecraft, according to SpaceIL officials, leaving Beresheet as the latest piece of human hardware to litter the lunar landscape.

"Good luck, Beresheet!" wrote the 89-year-old Aldrin, who was the lunar module pilot when he and fellow astronaut and mission commander Neil Armstrong became the first two humans to walk on the moon on July 21, 1969.

US satellite manufacturer Space Systems Loral, a Maxar company, purchased the Falcon 9 launch on behalf of its customer Pasifik Satelit Nusantara, or PSN. Following a successful separation after launch, SpaceX plans to land the Falcon 9 rocket booster on its drone ship, "Of Course I Still Love You", which is stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

China's Chang'e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon on January 3, after a probe sent by Beijing made a Lunar landing elsewhere in 2013.

But as the competition wore on, it became apparent that none of the companies were going to be able to meet the deadline to land on the moon, and so Google ultimately scrapped the competition in March 2018. Previously, only the U.S., U.S.S.R, and China have landed spacecraft on the moon.

The 5-foot-tall Beresheet lander will be tucked into the rocket with Nusantara Satu. Last month Israel Aerospace Industries partnered with German spacecraft builder OHB to offer a version of the lander it built for SpaceIL to the European Space Agency for commercial delivery of payloads to the moon's surface. Two minutes after it separates from the rocket, Beresheet will communicate for the first time with the mission's control center in Yehud, Israel. The main payload is an Indonesian communications satellite called "Nusantara Satu" (also called PSN 6).

According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the booster could fly again as early as April in support of Crew Dragon's in-flight abort mission, although his implication that that test will occur in April directly contradicts a recent NASA schedule update that pegged the test no earlier than (NET) June 2019.

Previous missions have reached the moon much faster.

"We'll keep analysing the data, but bottom line is we entered the very exclusive group of countries that have launched a spacecraft to the moon", said Yigal Harel, head of SpaceIL's spacecraft program.

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