The world’s first privately funded commercial lunar lander has been launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. The lander was developed by Israeli-based Google Lunar X Prize entrant, SpaceIL in conjunction with the Israeli Space Agency.
After a successful launch and first stage separation, the Falcon 9 booster landed safely aboard the Of Course I Still Love You droneship in what was described as some of the most challenging conditions to date. The booster used in today’s launch had been recovered twice before making it the second ever to be recovered three times. It is expected to be launched in support of a fourth mission in the coming months.
Approximately 33 minutes after liftoff, the Beresheet lander separated from the rocket’s upper stage. Following separation, SpaceIL confirmed that they had acquired the spacecraft’s signal and that its landing legs had been deployed as expected. The additional two payloads separated around 10 minutes after the Beresheet lander.
A number of high-profile congratulatory messages to Israel and SpaceIL followed the successful launch of the Beresheet lunar lander. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated both SpaceIL and the Israeli Space Agency and expressed a desire for cooperation in the future.
“Congratulations to SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency,” said Bridenstine. “This is a historic step for all nations and commercial space as we look to extend our collaborations beyond low-Earth orbit and on to the Moon.”
Other high profile congratulatory messages came from Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and Buzz Aldrin. The Apollo 11 astronaut wished the mission luck on its journey to his “old stomping ground… the moon”.
The Beresheet lunar lander will now enter a coast phase on its 8-week journey to the moon. The lander is expected to touch down on the lunar surface on April 11, 2019.