If everything goes well, today at nine o'clock in the evening Spanish peninsular an Israeli probe will land on the Moon. Israel will become the fourth to get it, after three powers like the US, Russia and China. In addition, it will be the first mission of this kind driven by a private company, although it has received government support. The arrival can be followed live from 20.45 in EL PAÍS.
The origin of the project, according to the version of its leaders, it can be traced until a night of drinks almost a decade ago in a bar in Holon, a city south of Tel Aviv (Israel). The young Yonatan Winetraub, a space engineer, Yariv Bash, an expert in cybersecurity, and Kfir Damari, a manufacturer of drones, heated up with the passage of drinks and ended up designing a plan to place a spacecraft on the Moon. Unlike what usually happens with these ethic fantasies, they made it a reality.
The geopolitical circumstances of Israel mean that it has to launch its rockets in the opposite direction to that of other countries
To develop their project, in 2011 they founded SpaceIL and announced their participation in the Lunar X Prize, a Google contest that offered 17.7 million euros for the first team to manage to take an explorer robot to the Moon capable of traveling at least half kilometer on the surface of the satellite and transmit to the Earth images or high-definition video. The last deadline set by Google expired in 2018, but the Israeli group, which worked alongside government-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), continued with the work.
Beresheet, as the project has been baptized (in Hebrew it means "genesis"), it has cost about 89 million euros, mostly contributed by Jewish philanthropists. The two main investors are US casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who has contributed 14.5 million euros, and Israeli businessman Morris Kahn, who chairs the board of SpaceIL and has already invested more than 35.5 million euros. The Israeli Space Agency has contributed 1.8 million euros, the only amount of state origin.
As its own drivers recognize, the main objective of the mission was, once it was ruled out to win the Lunar X Prize, to demonstrate that a team like yours was capable of taking a probe to the Moon and taking a few photos. Finally, the researcher of the Weizmann Institute Oded Aharonson convinced to the directors of SpaceIL to include some scientific instruments, with the main objective of measuring the magnetism of the lunar cortex.
Beyond, Beresheet it aims to be a source of inspiration to awaken in future Israeli children the engineers of the future, and, as is often the case with space deeds, a source of national pride. The probe will take to the Moon a capsule with information about Israel and the Jewish people, memories of a Holocaust survivor or a complete copy of the Bible.
According to Ofer Lapid, representative of the Israeli Space Agency at the International Space University, although there is no state support in the form of money, the whole country has turned to the task, with talks on the project that have reached more than one million children and hundreds of volunteers who have contributed their work in a disinterested way. On the screens of the Ben Gurion airport, next to a flight from Madrid and another from London, the arrival of the Israeli probe to the Moon is included.
The life of Beresheet Once it is on our satellite it will be brief. The landing will occur at lunar dawn, when the temperature is still mild. However, with the advance of the day, the temperature can reach one hundred degrees centigrade, and the cameras of the Israeli probe are not designed to support more than 90. If it survives the heat, the arrival of the night, with temperatures below -150 degrees, it will finish it off.
Among the particularities of this spatial milestone is the size of the ship. With the size of a small car and 585 kilograms of weight in the launch, and 160 without fuel, it is the smallest artifact that has ever landed on the Moon. The geopolitical circumstances of Israel have influenced the effort of the engineers of this country in the search for efficiency. Surrounded by enemies, it does not launch its rockets to the east to take advantage of the Earth's rotation momentum. He launches them in the opposite direction, towards the Mediterranean, losing almost a third of his capacity. In the case of Bersheet, the probe did not leave for space from its country of origin. He did it aboard a Falcon 9, a rocket also created by a private company, SpaceX, from Florida (USA).
This type of technical details will be important in the new stage of lunar exploration, in which the private initiative will gain ground. NASA has announced that it accepts proposals to transport small robots to the Moon through private companies with the intention of starting in 2020. The experience of Beresheet will place SpaceIL among the best positioned competitors in this new space race.