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Israel's first moon launch delayed to 2019

Oct. 11, 2018 1:39 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 14, 2018 10:45 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- SpaceIL, the Israeli organization behind the country's first mission to the moon, announced on Wednesday a delay in the vessel's launch from December 2018 to expectantly early 2019.

SpaceIL said in a statement that Elon Musk's SpaceX firm, whose rockets are set to carry the unmanned probe into space, informed the organization of a "delay of a number of weeks to the beginning of 2019."

SpaceIL stressed that the delay was SpaceX's decision.

The organization added that tests on the craft, which is shaped like a pod and is 1.5 meters tall, 2 meters in diameter, and weighs 585 kilograms, were proceeding successfully.

The tests include simulating launch conditions, ensuring the spacecraft functions properly after disconnecting from the rocket, and testing the durability of the craft’s legs.

In addition, this past week began with testing in a dedicated thermal vacuum chamber that exposed the spacecraft to vacuum conditions and temperatures between -180 C and 70 C.

The craft was originally set to reach the moon on February 13, 2019, where its mission would include research on the moon's magnetic field and planting an Israeli flag.

However, SpaceIL did not provide exact dates for the delayed launch and its landing.

The project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered $30 million in awards to encourage entrepreneurs and scientists to come up with relatively low-cost moon missions.

Despite the Google Lunar XPrize expired in March without a winner having reached the moon, the Israeli team, which is among the five finalists, committed itself to push towards the launch.

The SpaceIL lander will record video and take panoramic images, as well as measure the magnetic field on and above the moon's surface for research at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The vessel will also transmit data to the control center at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for two days before its systems shut down.

If the vessel successfully lands, then Israel will become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on Earth's natural satellite, after the Soviet Union, the United States and China.

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