CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Thursday night carrying Israel’s first lunar lander on a mission that if successful will make the Jewish state only the fourth nation to achieve a controlled touchdown on the moon’s surface.
The unmanned robotic lander dubbed Beresheet – Hebrew for the biblical phrase “in the beginning” – soared into space from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 8:45 p.m. EST (0145 GMT Friday) atop the 23-story-tall rocket.
Beresheet, about the size of a dish-washing machine, was one of three sets of cargo carried aloft by the Falcon 9, part of the private rocket fleet of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s California-based company SpaceX.
The rocket’s two other payloads were a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force.
Beresheet was jettisoned into Earth orbit about 34 minutes after launch, followed 15 minutes later by the release of the two satellites, according to a SpaceX webcast of the event.
In addition to a textbook launch and payload deployments, SpaceX scored yet another success in its pioneering technology for recycling its own rockets.
Just minutes after blastoff, the Falcon 9’s nine-engine suborbital main-stage booster separated from the upper stage, flew back to Earth and landed safely on a drone ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean more than 300 miles (483 km) off the Florida coast.
As seen from the launch site, the distant glow of the returning booster rocket was visible in the sky just as the moon appeared over the horizon. The spectacle drew cheers from mission control engineers.
The encouraging moment came on the eve of a key hurdle for SpaceX to clear in the company’s quest to help NASA revive its human spaceflight program.
On Friday, NASA is expected to decide whether to give its final go-ahead to SpaceX for a first, unmanned test flight on March 2 of a new capsule the company designed for carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
FROM EARTH TO THE MOON
Beresheet is slated to reach its destination on the near-side of the moon in mid-April following a two-month journey through 4 million miles (6.5 million km) of space.
A flight path directly from Earth to the moon would cover roughly 240,000 miles (386,242 km), but Beresheet will follow a more circuitous route.
If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft’s gradually widening Earth orbit will eventually bring the probe within the moon’s gravitational pull, setting the stage for a series of additional maneuvers leading to an automated touchdown.
So far, only three other nations have carried out controlled “soft” landings on the moon – the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.
Spacecraft from several countries, including India’s Moon Impact Probe, Japan’s SELENE orbiter and a European Space Agency orbital probe called SMART 1, have intentionally crashed on the lunar surface.
The U.S. Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon – the only ones yet achieved – between 1969 and 1972, with about a dozen more robotic landings combined by the Americans and Soviets. China made history in January with its Chang’e 4, the first to touch down on the dark side of the moon.
Beresheet would mark the first non-government lunar landing. The 1,290-pound (585-kg) spacecraft was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with $100 million furnished almost entirely by private donors.A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Israel’s first spacecraft designed to land on the moon lifts off on the first privately-funded lunar mission at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
Beresheet is designed to spend just two to three days using on-board instruments to photograph its landing site and measure the moon’s magnetic field. Data will be relayed via the U.S. space agency NASA’s Deep Space Network to SpaceIL’s Israel-based ground station Yehud.
At the end of its brief mission, mission controllers plan to simply shut down the spacecraft, according to SpaceIL officials, leaving Beresheet as the latest piece of human hardware to litter the lunar landscape.
The article was published on Reuters
Another drone sighting forced London’s Gatwick airport runway to close again on Friday, as the 3-day long saga continues.
Police were still unsuccessfully looking for perpetrators in a disturbance that grounded flights in the second-busiest airport in the United Kingdom on Wednesday and Thursday, although British media favored the option of a lone-wolf environmentalist attack.
The airport has been in an ongoing dispute with its neighbors and environmental groups about expansion.
Planes were suspended on Wednesday night after a member of staff spotted an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) above the runway.
More than 110,000 had been affected by the closure, in one of the busiest weeks of the year.
Gatwick was only able to re-open after military reinforcements were brought in on Thursday.
They came with technology that was used to defeat ISIS in Syria, which the Daily Mail identified as the Israeli-made Drone Dome.
It uses radar technology to spot a drone, and a frequency jammer in order to cut the vehicle from its pilot, and bring it down to the ground softly.
The UK purchased six of the system, unveiled in 2016, in August for Middle-East operations, at a cost of close to US$ 3.3 million each.
Drone Dome is manufactured by government-owned Rafael Systems, which has specialized in cutting-edge weapon interception systems.
– Potential catastrophe –
Aviation chiefs are going to be on a steep learning curve to counter the security threat posed by drones after the costly and humiliating shutdown of Gatwick.
The fear is that if a drone smashed into a passenger plane or was sucked up into one of its engines, its highly flammable lithium battery could cause a catastrophe.
In 2016, the European Aviation Safety Agency logged 1,400 drone incidents in Europe, up from 606 between 2011 and 2015.
Deputies in the European Parliament approved EU-wide regulations on the use of drones, but still need formal approval from European ministers before taking effect.
But finding high-tech solutions to the drone threat in airport presents particular challenges, says Lucas Le Bell, founder of the start-up Cerbair that specialises in tackling the drone problem.
The noise levels at airports, the security requirements and the saturated level of communications make the task much harder.
His team is working on isolating the frequencies used to control drones, so they can not only detect and locate the devices but take control of them.
Elsewhere in France meanwhile, Mont-de Marsan airbase in the southwest has been working on a more low-tech solution.
The airforce, inspired by a similar experiment in the Netherlands, has been training golden eagles to search and destroy the intruders.
But that system still needs work: earlier this year, one of the eagles attacked a girl after mistaking her vest for the enemy.
The article was published on I24 website
JERUSALEM’S HIGH TECH PIONEERS IN BRUSSELS FOR EU TWINNING CONFERENCE
“No politics, let’s get this done together!”
Brussels, 7th June, 2018. The brief is ambitious, “Scaling up Jerusalem’s ecosystem to create Europe’s first google”, but when European Parliamentarians, EU Institution policy heads and Jerusalem’s brightest and best high-tech entrepreneurs and venture partners got together in the European Parliament, the message was clear, “no politics, let’s just get it done together!”
The conference was organised by the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Israeli Ministry of Jerusalem and heritage and their partners in Europe the European Jewish Association, Europe Israel Public Affairs, the European Jewish Community Centre and the European Coalition for Israel, and hosted by Romanian Socialist MEP Andi Cristea and Liberal Lithuanian MEP Petras Austrevicius.
Israel and the EU already co-operate within the framework agreement, but there is scope to scale things up more, a message that was shared with the conference. “If you fund the scaling up, we will double it”, said Jerusalem Development Authority CEO Eyal Haimovski on the opening panel.
The conference itself focused on the technicalities of setting up an ecosystem, and the ingredients needed for it to flourish, over a busy three panels, the busy Committee Room humming with guests, heard about incentivizing on the part of policy makers to encourage and stimulate action and innovation, the role of venture capital and creating a business angel network, embracing failures as part of success, and lastly but my no means least, establishing and nurturing innovative grass roots communities.
Speaking at the event, MEP Andi Cristea underlined:
“Jerusalem’s ecosystem is a unique asset and an incredible success story. I am glad our friends from the city have accepted our invitation and will share their experience here, within the premises of the European Parliament, amongst friends and to the benefit of our friendship, our people and our common future.”
‘It’s time for the politicians to do something they don’t like doing: shut up and let the experts take the lead on this issue,” MEP Petras Austrivicius added, and made a strong pitch for Vilnius as a tech hub, saying it had long been known as the ‘Jerusalem of the North’.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the founder of the European Jewish Association and Europe Israel Public Affairs who organised and managed the event in Brussels said,
“There is a clear appetite to co-operate and develop the EU-Israel innovation partnership further, and in particular foster ties going forward with Jerusalem, to learn and, we hope replicate, the city’s great and ongoing successes.
“In talking to many of the participants, from the EU and from Israel, the message is clear: No politics, let’s just get this done. Today’s conference was a solid and inspiring start to that process where networks were made, inspiration given and with potential business very much in the offing.”
Following the conference, a twinnovation lunch took place in EIPA’s HQ, addressed by His Excellency Leshno-Yaar, where EU high-tech companies were able to ‘speed date’ with their Jerusalem counterparts.
JLMhi-tech day was finished with a bigHigh Tech Night celebration in Place Luxembourg. where the crowds got to try some amazing Jerusalem street food, check out the amazing technology coming out of the city and have a couple of beers.