Israel unveils plan for ‘smallest spacecraft ever to land on the moon’

Israel to blast unmanned ‘mini Apollo’ to the moon next year

  • Craft set to launch in Dec aims to transmit pictures and videos back to Earth
  • It will land on Feb 13, and capture footage, measure magnetic field over two days
  • The mini craft stands about 1.5 meters high and weighs just 585 kg (1,290 lb)
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An Israeli non-profit group plans to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon in February in the first landing of its kind since 2013.

The craft, which is shaped like a round table with four carbon fiber legs, is set to blast off in December from Florida’s Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, said Ido Anteby, chief executive of the SpaceIL non-profit.

It aims to transmit pictures and videos back to earth over two days after it lands on Feb. 13 as well as measuring magnetic fields.


The craft, which is shaped like a round table with four carbon fiber legs, is set to blast off in December from Florida’s Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, said Ido Anteby, chief executive of the SpaceIL non-profit

‘Our spacecraft will be the smallest ever to land on the moon,’ said Anteby.

Since 1966, the United States and the former Soviet Union have put around 12 unmanned spacecraft on the moon using braking power to perform ‘soft’ landings and China did so in 2013.

SpaceIL was founded in 2011 by a group of engineers with a budget of about $90 million and they had to sacrifice size and operational capabilities for more efficient travel.

‘What we’re doing is we’re trying to replicate the Apollo effect in the United States,’ South African-Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn, the project’s largest donor, said, referring to the surge in interest in science and engineering after the U.S. space program landed on the moon in 1969.

The craft, unveiled on Tuesday at state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries, stands about 1.5 meters high and weighs 585 kg (1,290 lb). 

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The spacecraft has four carbon fiber legs and fuel takes up two-thirds of its weight.

At 60,000 km (37,000 miles) above Earth the spacecraft will deploy. 

It will orbit Earth in expanding ellipses and, about two months later, cross into the moon’s orbit. 

It will then slow and carry out a soft landing causing no damage to the craft.


The craft, unveiled on Tuesday at state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries, stands about 1.5 meters high and weighs 585 kg (1,290 lb)

WHAT ARE EUROPE’S PLAN FOR A MOON BASE?

In 2016, the head of the ESA elaborated on plans to build a village on the moon, designed by London firm Foster + Partners.

‘The future of space travel needs a new vision,’ said Jan Woerner.

The concept is a base for lunar exploration by humans and robots, which would act as a stopover for spacecraft, and become a ‘village’ with mining and even tourism.
 


Multi-dome lunar base being constructed, based on the 3D printing concept. Once assembled, the inflated domes are covered with a layer of 3D-printed lunar regolith by robots to help protect the occupants against space radiation and micrometeoroids

‘Right now we have the Space Station as a common international project, but it won’t last forever,’ said Woerner.

‘If I say Moon Village, it does not mean single houses, a church, a town hall and so on. No, that would be misleading. 

‘My idea only deals with the core of the concept of a village: people working and living together in the same place. 

‘And this place would be on the moon.

‘In the Moon Village we would like to combine the capabilities of different spacefaring nations, with the help of robots and astronauts. 


Structures for a lunar base could be built by robots sent ahead of human astronauts. Experts said 3D printing technology can currently construct an entire building in around a week

‘The participants can work in different fields, perhaps they will conduct pure science and perhaps there will even be business ventures like mining or tourism.’

Woerner said the village could even help man get to Mars.

‘The Moon Village would also act as a ‘pit stop’ for the further exploration of the Universe,’ he said. 

‘Esa is eager to fly to Mars as well. 


For ESA’s 3D-printed lunar base concept, Foster+Partners devised a weight-bearing ‘catenary’ dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts

‘For more than a decade, we have had a very successful spacecraft orbiting there. And now, with ExoMars, two unmanned missions are aiming at martian orbit and the surface. 

‘Yes, the Americans want to send astronauts to Mars one day, but today’s technology isn’t prepared for this trip yet. 

‘For example, we must develop countermeasures against the cosmic radiation that endangers the health of humans on long space trips. And we have to learn how to endure longer periods of time in space, not only in low orbit as on the Space Station.

‘This is where our Moon comes into play – it is the perfect stepping stone to Mars.’ 

The space agency has been touting the permanent lunar colony as a replacement for the orbiting International Space Station, which is due to be decommissioned in 2024 

 

‘The landing is the most complicated part. The spot chosen is relatively flat and the spacecraft has eye contact with Earth for communication,’ Anteby said. 

‘From the moment the spacecraft reaches the point that it begins the landing, it will handle it totally autonomously.’

SpaceIL is backed mainly by private donors, including U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and billionaire Morris Kahn who co-founded Amdocs, one of Israel’s biggest high-tech companies.

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