Last night, while I was sleeping, Israel became just the fourth nation to go to the moon, joining Russia, China and of course, the United States. The spaceship is hitching a ride with the Falcon 9. Beresheet, Hebrew for Genesis, was the brainchild of three Israelis, a space engineer, a cyber security expert and a drone maker. About 10 years ago they were having a beer just south of Tel Aviv and decided to go to the moon.
Google had just offered 20 million dollars to any team who could land a rover on the moon and send back to earth, HD video. From the beginning the three Israelis were far ahead of everyone else. However, eventually Google backed out and they had to look for private funding.
They raised 100 million dollars and built the Beresheet. It took off at 3:45am this morning, Israel time. Israelis gathered all over the country in pajama parties to watch the event. One man said who was watching from Tel Aviv, “History happens when others are sleeping.” Wow…he had to rub out in!
After a short time, the Beresheet rover separated from the Falcon 9 and will begin its long solo journey to the moon. The goal is to land it on April 11, when there is a small window.
For Israelis, this conjures memories of Ilan Ramon, our first and only astronaut, who was part of the fatal Columbia mission in 2003, where the entire crew tragically died upon re-entry to earth. Ramon is considered a hero in Israel.
The Beresheet Rover has a time-capsule with Israeli songs, drawings from Israeli children, Israeli art and pictures of the Holy Land.