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The X Prize was an worldwide contest founded to challenge private companies to build spacecraft capable of landing on the moon without government funds.

Just after 34 minutes, the Israeli moon lander Beresheet, which is owned by a nonprofit called SpaceIL, was deployed to orbit. "Israel is aiming for the #moon and you're all invited to watch", said a Twitter message from SpaceIL, the non-profit organization that designed the Israeli craft.

Beresheet, which means Genesis or "in the beginning" in the Hebrew language, will take about two months to reach the moon.

When it arrives, its landing gear must cushion the descent onto the lunar surface to prevent Beresheet from crashing.

The forty-day voyage culminates with a landing scheduled for April 11. What are the scientific missions and the objectives behind the first privately funded mission to the moon?

The Falcon 9 took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday carrying SpaceIL's Beresheet lander, as well as an Indian communications satellite called Nusantara Satu. "It's smaller than New Jersey", Harel said, "and we are shooting to the moon". According to SpaceIL representatives, the mission's total cost, including the historic launch, is only $100 million.

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The two other payloads set for deployment are a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force.

SpaceIL's "Beresheet" mission, the first private moon-landing attempt, was started by a Google Lunar X Prize team backed by the Israeli-South African billionaire Morris Kahn.

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 created to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. A time capsule is aboard the lander - which includes a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003 - as well as a lunar library containing 30 million pages on a disk from the US -based Arch Mission Foundation.

He added: "Several hours ago I said that the State of Israel is a rising global power, to the moon".

"This time, when we go to the Moon, we're actually going to stay", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last week. The contest closed without a victor, but SpaceIL made a decision to continue and get funding from elsewhere. Chang'e 4, as well as the suspended moon vehicle Jadehase 2 to collect data.