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SpaceX Just Launched the First Commercial Lunar Lander, Ever

It could become the first privately built vehicle to reach the lunar surface in human history.

Making History

It’s official: Israeli space company SpaceIL’s lunar lander Beresheet just launched into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket this evening, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. SpaceX confirmed the successful deployment just after 9:30pm EST.

If all goes well, the dishwasher-sized spacecraft will be the first private spacecraft to ever reach the lunar surface.

A Long Way to Go

SpaceIL is planning for the spacecraft, which is called the Beresheet, to land in April after slowly expanding its elliptical path around the Earth until it’s close enough to the Moon. It will circle the Moon several times before making its way down to the surface.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated the Israeli team. “This is a historic step for all nations and commercial space as we look to extend our collaborations beyond low-Earth orbit and on to the Moon,” he said in a statement.

Time Capsule

On board the Beresheet is a time capsule filled with digital files including the Torah, the Israeli flag, a variety of national artwork — and a digital copy of the entirety of the English-language Wikipedia encyclopedia, according to the New York Times.

Once Beresheet has completed its mission, it will not attempt to return to Earth. But it will map the Moon’s magnetic field and take some snapshots using on-board scientific instruments.

READ MORE: SpaceX Rocket Carries Israeli Lunar Lander Into Orbit [New York Times]

More on the lander: First Private Lunar Lander Passes Launch Tests at SpaceX Facility

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