For the first time later this week, a privately developed moon lander will launch aboard a privately built rocket, organized by a private launch coordinator. It’s an historic moment in space and the Israeli mission stands to make history again if it touches down on the Moon’s surface as planned on April 11. The Beresheet (“Genesis”) program was originally conceived as an entry into the ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful Google Lunar Xprize in 2010, which challenged people to accomplish a lunar landing, with $30 million in prizes as the incentive. The prize closed last year with no winner but as these Xprize competitions aim to do, it had already spurred great interest and investment in a private moon mission. and Israel Aerospace Industries worked together on the mission, which will bring cameras, a magnetometer, and a capsule filled with items from the country to, hopefully, a safe rest on the lunar surface. The Beresheet lander ahead of packaging for launch. The launch plan as of now (these things do change with weather, technical delays, and so on) is for takeoff at 5:45 Pacific time on Thursday — 8:45 PM in Cape Canaveral — aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. A live stream should be available shortly before, which I’ll add here later or in a new post. 30 minutes after takeoff the payload will detach and make contact with mission control, then begin the process of closing the distance to the Moon, during which time it will circle the Earth six times. Russia, China, and of course the U.S. are the only ones ever to successfully land on the Moon; was the first to soft-land (as opposed to impact) the “dark” (though really only far — it’s often light) side and is currently functional. But although there has been one successful private lunar flyby mission (the Manfred Memorial probe) no one but a major country has ever touched down. If Beresheet is a success it would be both the first Israeli moon mission and the first private mission to do so. It would also be the first lunar landing to be accomplished with a privately built rocket, and the lightest spacecraft on the Moon, and at around $100M in costs, the cheapest as well. Landing on the Moon is, of course, terribly difficult. Just as geosynchronous orbit is far more difficult than low Earth orbit, a lunar insertion orbit is even harder, a stable such orbit even harder, and accomplishing a controlled landing on target even harder than that. The only thing more difficult would be to take off again and return to Earth, as Apollo 11 did in 1969 and other missions several times after. Kind of amazing when you think about it. Seattle’s Spaceflight coordinated the launch, and technically Beresheet is the secondary payload; the primary is the Air Force Research Labs’ S5 experimental satellite, which the launch vehicle will take to geosynchronous orbit after the lunar module detaches. Although Beresheet may very well be the first, it will likely be the first of many: other contenders in the Lunar Xprize, as well as companies funded or partnering with NASA and other space agencies, will soon be making their own attempts at making tracks in the regolith.
Amazon’s first Thursday Night Football stream plays on its website homepage in September. (Screenshot via Amazon) While National Football League teams have made the usual offseason changes aimed at improving their competitive chances next season, the league itself is staying with one big player — Amazon. The NFL announced Thursday that it had reached an agreement to once again partner with Amazon Prime Video for streaming rights to “Thursday Night Football.” The tech giant will stream 11 games (broadcast by FOX) to a global audience during both the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Last season marked the first year of the streaming partnership between the league and Seattle-based Amazon, which took the reigns after Twitter’s one-year shot at the effort. Last year’s deal was for a reported $50 million, and rumblings on Thursday indicated that the NFL may have upped that price as competition from other services such as YouTube and Facebook was strong. Amazon re-ups NFL Thursday night streaming deal for 2018, 2019. Slightly surprising – figured league would want a new partner, and YouTube is very interested in live sports. — Peter Kafka (@pkafka) Looks like same deal as before (though I assume NFL will have extracted some kind of rate increase) – games streamed to Prime members worldwide. One new tweak – will also be available (presumably for free) to Twitch users. — Peter Kafka (@pkafka) Had heard from a few folks over the last few months that YouTube was a strong contender for this deal. Also a little surprised the NFL went back to Amazon. — Kurt Wagner (@KurtWagner8) Surprising in that many thought NFL would continue its digital speed dating after previously working with Amazon and Twitter. Plenty of other potential parties inc YouTube and Facebook. But NFL staying w Amazon for this for next 2 years. — Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) “Amazon was a tremendous partner for ‘Thursday Night Football’ in 2017 and as we continue our mission of delivering NFL games to fans whether they watch on television or on digital platforms, we are excited to work with them again for the next two seasons,” Brian Rolapp, chief media and business officer for the NFL, said in a news release. PREVIOUSLY: Amazon will deliver to more than 100 million Amazon Prime members worldwide in over 200 countries and territories, on the Prime Video app for TVs, game consoles, and connected devices, which includes Amazon Fire TV, mobile devices and online. Across 10 games last season when on the technology behind the effort, Amazon attracted more than 17 million viewers, or an average of 1.7 million per game. Games will also be available to Twitch viewers, the live-streaming interactive video platform that is a subsidiary of Amazon. Amazon also partners with the NFL for the Prime original series “All or Nothing,” which is produced by NFL Films. The third season of the docuseries will launch on Friday with a closer look at the Dallas Cowboys. Amazon’s first “Thursday Night Football” game of the upcoming season will be during week four when the Los Angeles Rams host the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 27. Games kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET.