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Israel's Beresheet mission to the moon lifts off successfully

The robotic module, which is due to land on the moon in April, would make Israel just the fourth country in the world to successfully land a lunar craft

    The launch of Beresheet at Cape Canaveral last night
    The launch of Beresheet at Cape Canaveral last night

    The successful launch of Israel’s first lunar mission took place on Friday morning, with a 585kg robotic lander blasting off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 1.15am UK time.

    It will take two months for the the craft, called Beresheet (Hebrew for "In the Beginning", to complete the journey to the moon.

    If successful, Israel will become just the fourth country in the world – after Russia, the United States and China – to achieve what is known as a “soft landing” on the moon’s surface.

    SpaceIL, the organisation behind the mission, subsequently tweeted: “We received the first sign of life & data from #Beresheet & the #spacecraft deployed its landing legs as expected."

    SpaceIL built Beresheet together with Israel Aerospace Industries, but the £70 million mission was primarily financed by Jewish philanthropists.

    They include Morris Khan, an Israeli billionaire who is chairman of SpaceIL, and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.

    It is due to land on the moon’s surface on April 11, three days after Israel’s general election.

    The targeted landing site is the Mare Serenitatis, the “Sea of Serenity”, an area on the moon’s northern hemisphere.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was present at the control centre in Yehud, Israel, for the launch, while Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, sent his best wishes for the mission.

    "By what we’re doing and achieving with the limited resources that we have, and the limited finances we had - I think we showed Israeli ingenuity," Mr Kahn said.

    "We show our initiative, and we’ve developed technology which I think is going to be important."

    The craft will only be operational for a few days after landing, before shutting down.

    However, before that happens it will conduct some experiments, collecting information on the different levels of magnetism at various places on the surface and relaying its finding back to Earth.

    As well as its technical equipment, Beresheet contains a time capsule with digital files including the Torah, Israel’s flag and national anthem, and the memories of a Holocaust survivor.

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