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

The Air Force Research Laboratory's S5 satellite will travel with the Nusantara Satu satellite close to geostationary orbit before deploying from the parent satellite.

If it is successful, it will join an exclusive club of countries, including the United States, Russia, and China in pulling off the landing.

In a tweet, the company said simply: "Liftoff!"

SpaceIL said it hoped Beresheet would help inspire Israel's defence-focused space program to pursue more science missions by way of an "Apollo effect", referring to the manned lunar exploration program that became NASA's chief goal in the 1960s and early '70s.

Shortly before the main PSN-6 satellite was deployed from Falcon 9's upper stage, one of SpaceX's launch network operators verbally confirmed that SpaceIL's Beresheet lander had established communications with the ground and successfully deployed its landing legs in orbit, one tangible step closer to the first attempted commercial Moon landing. 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. SpaceIL and IAI are attempting a major space milestone: Israel hasn't landed a lunar lander on the moon's surface before, so this mission will be a first for the nation.

The unmanned robotic lander dubbed Beresheet - Hebrew for the biblical phrase "in the beginning" - soared into space from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 8:45 p.m. EST (0145 GMT Friday) atop the 23-story-tall rocket.

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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.

The Israeli spacecraft Beresheet launched this evening on a trip to the moon, where it hopes to touch down in two months. NASA is providing support to track and monitor the spacecraft on its journey and landing. Launching the refurbished booster for a third time could net SpaceX millions (if not tens of millions) of dollars.

The spacecraft is also equipped with the ability to "hop" short distances on the moon, and engineers say they're confident it carries the fuel to do so. It will also bring a time capsule to the Moon, including the Israeli flag, the country's national anthem, "Hatikvah", dictionaries in 27 languages, the Bible, and a children's book about the mission.

Beresheet will stay on the moon until someday, perhaps, Israeli astronauts can retrieve it.

"Nusantara Satu is Indonesia's first high-throughput satellite that will serve to improve internet connectivity in the region", SpaceX officials said in a statement. The reuse of boosters is part of SpaceX's plan to make spaceflight cheaper.

"In religion and ethics, science and scholarship, we have long reached for the stars; now we are rightfully reaching the moon".

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