Jerusalem: In a bid to ensure security in region,US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter on Monday met Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the first time since the nuclear agreement with Iran was signed.
“We need to work together to preserve security in the region,” Carter told Ya’alon, adding: “Israel is a source of stability of the US strategy in the Middle East.”
Carter, whose visit was scheduled before the announcement of the nuclear agreement last Tuesday, arrived overnight amidst evident tensions between Israel and the US over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s staunch opposition to the agreement, Xinhua news agency reported.
Carter pledged the US commitment to Israel’s security, noting that his visit marks “80 years of close friendship” between the two countries.
On Tuesday, Carter is scheduled to meet Netanyahu, who called the nuclear agreement between Iran and the six world powers “a historic mistake”.
Aiming to become the fourth country to make a soft landing on the Moon, Israel’s non-profit SpaceIL has announced it will launch a spacecraft from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Thursday on board a Falcon 9 rocket.
The unmanned craft, weighing 1,300 pounds and standing approximately five feet tall, will then begin an about seven-week journey to the Moon, from where it will send back images of the rocky surface and conduct experiments on the lunar magnetic field.
The spacecraft is called “Beresheet,” a reference to the first words of the Bible in Hebrew: “In the beginning…”
For decades, the Moon was the exclusive domain of the superpowers. The Soviet Union landed Luna 2 on the Earth’s nearest neighbour in 1959. Three years later, the US landed Ranger 4 on the Moon.
These were “hard landings,” meaning the craft crashed into the Moon. The first “soft landings” for both countries came in 1966, when spacecraft made controlled descents to the lunar surface.
It would take nearly another 50 years for a third country to perform a soft Moon landing, when China’s Chang’e 3 did it in 2013.
If Israel’s spacecraft venture proceeds as planned, it would become the fourth — and by far the smallest — country to do so. It would also become the first private enterprise to make a controlled landing on the Moon, with the smallest spacecraft to do it, and by far the least expensive mission.
The total cost of the programme, raised from private donations, is $100 million, a small fraction of the billions of dollars invested in the US space program.
“This mission that we were talking about was really a mission impossible,” said entrepreneur Morris Kahn, who donated $40 million to the project.
“The only thing is I didn’t realize it was impossible, and the three engineers that started this project didn’t think it was impossible, and the way Israel thinks, nothing is impossible… We are really making this dream come true,” Kahn added.
SpaceIL was founded eight years ago to compete in the Google Lunar X Prize, an international competition to see whether a private enterprise could land a spacecraft on the moon, move 500 meters in any direction, and transmit live, high-definition video from the lunar surface.
The competition was canceled in January 2018 when none of the five teams left in the competition was able to meet the March deadline for a launch.