SpaceX powering Israeli spacecraft in first privately funded moon mission

Key Points
  • An Israeli spacecraft powered by SpaceX rockets will be launched on Thursday evening.
  • Powered by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, the launch is the first ever privately funded moon mission.
  • At $100 million, it is also the lowest-cost craft to be deployed to the moon.
A projected image of Beresheet's landing on the moon.

An Israeli spacecraft powered by SpaceX rockets will be launched late Thursday in the world's first privately funded moon mission.

The spacecraft, named Beresheet — the Hebrew word for "Genesis" — will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 8:45 p.m. ET, powered by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

Around 30 minutes after being launched out of the atmosphere, the spacecraft will separate from the rocket.

Beresheet is projected to land on the moon on April 11 after traveling 4 million miles, making it the longest journey to the moon in history.

The spacecraft cost around $100 million to construct — a fraction of the billions spent by governments in similar projects, and the lowest-budget probe ever to be deployed to the moon. Its landing would see Israel become the fourth country in history to reach the moon, after Russia, the U.S., and China.

Led by nonprofit SpaceIL, the launch is a national project backed by private donors, with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries involved as a partner.

Beresheet will collect lunar data and deposit a time capsule that includes children's drawings, the Bible, and Israel's Declaration of Independence. The time capsule will remain on the moon indefinitely.

NASA will also participate under an agreement with the Israel Space Agency. The U.S. agency has installed equipment on the spacecraft and will assist with communication between Beresheet and Earth.

Funding was led by entrepreneur Morris Kahn, president of SpaceIL, who donated $40 million of the project's costs.

Kahn — who has a net worth of $1 billion, according to Forbes — founded Aurum Ventures, which invests in life sciences and clean-tech companies.

"We are making history and are proud to be part of a group that dreamed and realized the vision that many countries in the world share, but so far only three have realized," he said in a press release Tuesday. "I couldn't be prouder than to give this gift to the people of Israel."