Israeli Moon Mission Gets a Second Chance With a $70 Million Donation

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An illustration of Beresheet 2.
An illustration of Beresheet 2.Credit: SpaceIL

The Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL announced Sunday it will be embarking on its second moonshot mission with the help of a new $70 million donation.

Beresheet 2, the Israeli-made moon lander, will attempt to be the first spacecraft built by the private sector to safely land on the moon, after its predecessor failed last year.

SpaceIL said in the past that its intention is to launch the spacecraft to the moon during the first half of 2024. When it nears the moon, the craft will separate into an orbiter – designed to orbit the moon for several years – and two landers. The landers will each land in a different site and will carry out various scientific experiments.

On Sunday, SpaceIL said it expects the cost of the mission to be $100 million, adding that the donation will cover the majority of the costs and that it “helps secure the changes of full funding for the project as well as making sure it stays on schedule.”

If successful, SpaceIL claims, Beresheet 2 will make history by being the first to have two landers launched from the same spacecraft. It also aims to be the first non-Chinese space vessel to land on the dark side of the moon. “The landers will also be the smallest vessels ever launched into space for that purpose (each weighing 120 kilograms with fuel, and a mere 60 without it)," the organization said.

It added that the plan also calls for the Beresheet 2 orbiter to remain in space for five years, where it will serve as a platform for additional missions – not too dissimilar from a space station, except that it will be unmanned.

The first Beresheet mission was underway for more than a decade and in 2019 it crash landed into the moon’s surface due to a technical malfunction that caused it to lose its main engine.

A number of philanthropists are behind the money for the project, including Patrick Drahi, Morris Kahn, the Moshal Space Foundation and Entrée Capital.

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