(JTA) — An Israeli non-profit organization, SpaceIL, is poised to launch the first private spacecraft to the moon.
The spacecraft, named Beresheet, or In The Beginning, is scheduled to be launched early Friday morning, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, which is about the size of a washing machine, is expected to land on the moon in April.
The United States, the Soviet Union and China are the only countries that so far have landed a spacecraft on the moon.
SpaceIL, established in 2011 with the goal to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, was founded by three young engineers competing for the international Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge to build, launch and land an unmanned lunar spacecraft. There was no winner after the finalists in the contest, including Israel, failed to meet the specified timetable.
SpaceIL’s other goal is to inspire the next generation in Israel and around the world to choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
The program has been funded mainly by philanthropist and businessman Morris Kahn, who donated $40 million and serves as SpaceIL’s president. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson contributed an additional $24 million to help keep the project afloat.
NASA reportedly signed a cooperation agreement with SpaceIL through the Israel Space Agency which will allow SpaceIL to use NASA systems to communicate with the spacecraft.
The iCenter — the North American educational partner of SpaceIL — released The Landing Page – An Educator’s Launch Kit to help parents and teachers to engage children with the moon landing.