Israel’s first lunar-bound spacecraft successfully blasted off early Friday morning, embarking on a seven-week trip to land on the moon. If the privately funded Beresheet project is successful, Israel will become just the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon. Beresheet lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 3:45 a.m. Israel time (8:45 p.m. Thursday EST), catching a ride on one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX commercial space launches.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Israel Aerospace Industries in Yehud to watch a live feed of the launch from Florida. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was also on hand, blessed the initiative, calling it “a great step for Israel, and a huge step for Israel’s technology.”
The public voted on the name Beresheet, which is the Hebrew word for the Book of Genesis and also means “In the beginning.” The spacecraft is carrying a Hebrew Bible inscribed with nanotechnology on a small metal circle the size of a NIS 5 coin, and a time capsule with Israel’s Declaration of Independence and national anthem, the memories of a Holocaust survivor, children’s drawings of space and the moon, the Traveler’s Prayer and a note from the late president Shimon Peres. The time capsule also includes a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003 — as well as a lunar library containing 30 million pages on a disk from the US-based Arch Mission Foundation.