CAL Cargo Airlines carries Israeli lunar spacecraft to Florida for launch

It may not be a giant leap, but it’s still a pretty big first step for Israeli aerospace cargo.

Last Friday, Jerusalem-based CAL Cargo Airlines successfully carried “SpaceIL” – the first-ever lunar spacecraft created in the Middle Eastern country – to Florida’s Cape Canaveral for a planned unmanned mission to the Moon.

Nicknamed Beresheet, which means “genesis” in Hebrew, the small spacecraft (pictured above), weighing less than 600 kilograms, was carefully loaded onto one of CAL’s 747-400ERF aircraft on Thursday at Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) for its final terrestrial journey to Orlando Airport (MCO) and trucked to the Kennedy Space Center. There, it will be mated atop a reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for mid-February launch on a two-month mission that is expected to end with a “soft” landing on the lunar surface.

Officials from CAL Cargo, which has more than 40 years of experience handling such non-standard cargo, were on-site for both the loading and unloading of the specially designed, temperature-sensitive SpaceIL container, to ensure a smooth and safe delivery. A statement from CAL Cargo said it is “proud to play a part in such a momentous and historic occasion for Israel.”

If the lunar landing is successful, it will culminate eight years of collaboration between SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), making Israel just the fifth country to reach the Moon, after Russia, the United States, China and India.

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