"Our mission was never about winning the prize money - although $20 million would have been nice", said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby. "It's about showing the next generation that anything is possible - that even our small country can push the limits of imagination". The only other countries who have managed to land on the moon are the U.S., Russia, and China.
The relatively lean Israeli project, which was not initiated or funded by the state, could also mark a change in the way space-related projects are construed and performed, paving the way for more private initiatives.
Approximately $88 million was invested in the spacecraft's development and construction.
SpaceIL is backed mainly by private donors, including United States casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and billionaire Morris Kahn who co-founded Amdocs, one of Israel's biggest high-tech companies.
But the SpaceIL team hopes that putting an Israeli-made module on the moon could help maintain Israel's technological momentum for years to come. "I have experienced numerous challenges in my life, but this was the greatest challenge of all". It is a national accomplishment that will put them on the world's space map. "SpaceIL's moon mission is officially underway #SpaceIL".
The project, which started in 2011 as part of Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) to land a small probe on the moon, has yet to receive IAI funding, despite the promise to provide a 10 percent contribution. Construction began at the IAI MABAT Plant previous year. It will take about two months for the spacecraft to reach its destination after launch.
The Israeli spacecraft, about the size of a dishwasher, measure about 6.6 feet in diameter and about 1.65 feet in height. Its maximum speed will reach more than 10 kilometers per second (36,000 kilometers, or almost 22,370 miles, per hour). It will separate from the rocket at 37,000 miles above the Earth and enter an elliptical orbit and slowly expand until it's captured by lunar gravity. An Israeli team plans to land the probe on the moon next February. This process will be executed autonomously by the spacecraft's navigation control system. They stated that a final launch date will be announced closer to the event.
Once it touches down on the lunar surface, it will plant an Israeli flag and begin conducting research into the magnetic field of the Earth's only natural satellite. This will take about two days to finish.