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.
Up it goes! @TeamSpaceIL's 'Beresheet' (Genesis) moon lander was successfully launched into space, beginning its journey to the moon. A historic moment for Israel's space program! 🇮🇱🚀🌕#IsraelToTheMoonpic.twitter.com/qfEnJMWOe0— Israel ישראל (@Israel) February 22, 2019
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."
Beresheet Launched successfully! 🇮🇱— Israel To The Moon (@TeamSpaceIL) February 22, 2019
We received the first sign of life & data from #Beresheet & the #spacecraft deployed its landing legs as expected. 🙌 #israeltothemoon@ILAerospaceIAI@ILSpaceAgencypic.twitter.com/Lmc9LhGaoo
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.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara attended the event to watch the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft, 'Beresheet'. 🇮🇱🚀🌕— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) February 22, 2019
"This is a very proud moment. This is a great step for Israel and a huge step for Israeli technology"#IsraeltotheMoon@TeamSpaceILpic.twitter.com/E4ZDP4kktS
"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.