A non-profit group in Israel plans to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon on February 13, 2019, joining just three countries to have made soft landings on the lunar surface – the US, Russia and China, according to reports.

“We will put the Israeli flag on the moon,” vowed Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL, which plans to launch the Israeli-built module in December from Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

“As soon as the spacecraft reaches the landing point it will be completely autonomous,” Anteby told reporters on Tuesday at an Israel Aerospace Industries space technology site in Yehud.

“The motor will brake the craft and it will reach the ground at zero speed for a soft landing,” he said. “During the landing the craft will photograph the landing area with stills and video and even record itself.”

The 1,300-pound, spider-like craft will measure only about 6.5 feet in diameters and about 5 feet tall — making it the smallest spacecraft to touch down on the moon, according to the news outlet.

The project took off in 2011 as part of a Google Lunar XPrize competition, which offered $20 million to land a probe on the moon.

The goal, Kahn said, is to inspire Israeli youth to pursue science studies and to have the impact the Apollo lunar mission had in 1969, when US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

“This is a tremendous project,” he said. “When the rocket is launched into space, we will all remember where we were when Israel landed on the moon.”

Three Israeli scientists — Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub – embarked on the ambitious project.

“We met in a pub and started to discuss what it meant,” Damari recalled, according to AFP.
The three young engineers formed SpaceIL and partnered with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, envisioning a tiny craft they believed could land on the moon by 2013.

On the moon, the craft will transmit images, videos and data on magnetic fields to the control center at IAI for two days before its systems shut down.

Previous spacecraft have taken just a few days to reach the moon, but SpaceIL will be fired into an elliptical orbit — a journey that will take two months but will save on carrying the fuel needed for a faster trip.