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Israel's maiden moon launch delayed to 2019

An Israeli Aerospace Industries space probe is displayed during a Tel Aviv press conference on July 10, 2018
So far, only the US, Russia and China have landed spacecrafts on the moon

The Israeli organization behind the country's first mission to the moon on Wednesday announced a delay in the vessel's launch from December to early 2019.

SpaceIL said Elon Musk's SpaceX firm, whose rockets are set to carry the unmanned probe into space, had informed it of "a delay of a number of weeks to the beginning of 2019." 

SpaceIL stressed that the delay was SpaceX's decision, noting in a statement that tests on their craft, shaped like a pod and weighing some 585 kilograms (1,300 pounds), were proceeding successfully.

The craft was originally set to reach the moon on February 13, 2019, where its mission would include research on the moon's magnetic field and planting an Israeli flag.

SpaceIL did not give precise dates for the postponed launch and landing, but it is meant to be transferred to the United States for launching via a rocket from American entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX firm.  

The ambitious project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered $30 million (25 million euros) in awards to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to come up with relatively low-cost moon missions.

Although the Google prize expired in March without a winner having reached the moon, Israel's team pledged to push forward.

The vessel will transmit data to the control center at the Israel Aerospace Industries for two days before its systems shut down.

So far, only the US, Russia and China have landed spacecrafts on the moon.

The first Israeli astronaut for NASA was Ilan Ramon, who was among those killed when Space Shuttle Columbia crashed on February 1, 2003. 


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