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The New Arab

Space colony: Israel plans moon mission for 2019

Israel's booming tech industry risks normalising relations with international elites [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 July, 2018

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"Its first task will be to plant an Israeli flag on the moon": Palestinians cringe at Israeli plan to launch moon mission in 2019 with the help of Elon Musk

An Israeli organisation announced plans on Tuesday to launch the country's first spacecraft to the moon in December, with hopes of staking Israel's claim among the high-tech elite. A successful operation would make it only the fourth country to ever complete a moon mission.

The unmanned spacecraft, shaped like a pod and weighing some 585 kilogrammes (1,300 pounds) at launch, will land on the moon on February 13, 2019 if all goes according to plan, organisers SpaceIL told a news conference in Yehud, central Israel. 

The vessel will be launched via a rocket from American entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX firm and its mission will include research on the moon's magnetic field.

Its first task, however, will be to plant an Israeli flag on the moon, organisers said, to the chagrin of Palestinians and their supporters.

"The moon is going to be occupied by Israel," joked one Twitter user, meanwhile Reuters bureau chief Luke Baker tweeted: "Israel plans to land unmanned spacecraft on moon in February (but two state solution remains out of reach)".

SpaceIL, a trio of Israeli scientists, is partnered with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, and their project funded by Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn.

"They hadn't really thought about the financial side," Kahn said of the project, relaying how he gave them an initial grant of $100,000, with his support growing with the project to largely cover the $95 million project.

To Kahn, for Israel to have a stake on the moon alongside the three global powers already there - the United States, Russia and China - would be "a tremendous achievement" that "will give us a sense of pride we really need". 

On the moon, the vessel will transmit data to the control centre at IAI for two days before its systems shut down.

"We’re trying to replicate the Apollo effect in the US," Kahn said, referring to the US programme that landed the first humans on the moon in 1969.

Israel has a fast-growing high tech industry that has helped its economy boom and overshadow its human rights abuses and exploitation of Palestinian land and resources, angering many supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, who decry the normalisation of relations with Israel through trading and collaborating in the tech industry. The vocal support of public figures such as Elon Musk further shadows the reality of the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

What is also worrying about Israel producing advanced technology is that it increases their capability to use cutting edge surveillance and censorship technology to continue its suppression of Palestinians. The Israeli army already routinely uses drones for surveillance as well as combat, for example using them to target protesters with tear gas.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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