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Israel’s Private Spacecraft to Shoot For Moon

Israeli private spacecraft shoots for Moon

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Lunar eclipse, Moon
Earth starts to cast its shadow on the moon during a complete lunar eclipse seen from Jakarta, Indonesia, Aug. 28, 2018. VOA

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.

The moon is seen near the Illimani mountain during a full lunar eclipse in La Paz, Bolivia, July 27, 2018. Photo: Reuters.

“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.

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But some of the teams persisted, determined to land on the Moon even without the incentive of $30 million in prize money.

SpaceIL pressed on, signing with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch their craft to the Moon on board a Falcon 9 rocket, which is scheduled for launch on February 21.

Beresheet will travel approximately 4 million miles on its journey, circling the earth multiple times to gain speed before it slingshots towards the moon. It is scheduled to land on April 11. (IANS)

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Israel to Help India with Desertification and Water Management

World Day to Combat Desertification, which is observed every June 17 to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification

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water shortage
The country is one of the world's leading nations in desert technologies and methods of dealing with desertification. Wikimedia Commons

At a time when several parts of India are facing acute water shortage and drought situation, Israel has expressed its keenness to share its experience in dealing with desertification and water management, in which it is a world leader.

Israel, with over 60 per cent of its territory being a desert and another 20 per cent semi-arid land, has developed a variety of solutions to desertification through desert agriculture, irrigation, desalination, aquaculture, afforestation and management of water resources. The country is one of the world’s leading nations in desert technologies and methods of dealing with desertification.

water shortage
The statement assumes significance as it comes at a time when several parts of India are facing acute water shortage and drought situation. Wikimedia Commons

“As part of our growing partnership with India, Israel is keen to work together and share all its experience and cutting edge technology in our joint fight against desertification, including a strategic partnership on water management and water security,” said Israeli Ambassador to India Ron Malka in a statement.

His statement came in the context of World Day to Combat Desertification, which is observed every June 17 to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. The statement assumes significance as it comes at a time when several parts of India are facing acute water shortage and drought situation.

water shortage
World Day to Combat Desertification, which is observed every June 17 to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. Wikimedia Commons

A statement issued by the Israeli Embassy said MASHAV, the country’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, places special emphasis on development cooperation and assistance in the fight against desertification and drought by introducing international programs of capacity building, training, project development and research.

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MASHAV’s approach is based on Israel’s experience in facing harsh climatic conditions, combines the transfer of adaptable technology, research and development, and a hands-on experience originating from leading Israeli experts and institutions, it added.

Under the Indo-Israeli Agricultural Project with the federal and state governments of India, the centre of excellence for date palms in the heart of the desert in Bhuj, Gujarat introduced Indian farmers to date palms suitable for arid conditions made more common by desertification, the statement said. Date palms are ideal value crops for farmers in arid conditions that can be found in India and Israel alike, it added. (IANS)