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Beresheet, Hebrew Bible’s first word that stands for “in the beginning” is an apt name for the first robotic moon lander from Israel, that will be launching on February 21, 2019. If mission goes as per schedule then it will be first private spacecraft from Israel to land on the moon and it could also mark the beginning of a new era in which private companies can also undertake space missions which had hitherto been carried out only by governments. The lander which is approximately the size of a regular commercial refrigerator stands for everything unconventional from concept to design and implementation.
Beresheet’s inspiration came from the competition Google Lunar XPrize which promised $30 million to any private individual or startup that would conceptualize and land a spacecraft on the moon which would have the capability to travel 500 meters on its surface and send photos and videos to earth about its journey. This challenge caught the fancy of Israeli aerospace engineer Yonatan Winetraub who was studying for a year at NASA but he did not find any supporters. Once he went back home he shared his idea with friends Yariv Bash and Kfir Damari and their discussion led to the birth of SpaceIL and Beresheet.
Its first proposal to XPrize committee was given on December 31, 2010 just 45 minutes before the deadline but unfortunately its first 3 concepts failed during engineering evaluation which taught them valuable lesson on fuel conservation. From the beginning the designers and developers of SpaceIL and partner Israel Aerospace Industries had a tough time due to lack of experience in any form of lunar mission. The final version of Beresheet weighing 350 pounds is ready at the cost of $95 million that has been underwritten to a large extent by telecom billionaire Morris Kahn from Israel. It will be launched by SpaceX rocket along with another firm’s payload.