"We thought it's about time for a change, and we want to get little Israel all the way to the moon", said Yonatan Winetraub, co-founder of Israel's SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization behind the effort.
"Beresheet" will circumnavigate the earth repeatedly in order to pick up speed before it zooms toward the moon, where it is expected to land on April 11.
Other partners are Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Israel's space agency, and the country's Ministry of Science and Technology. It seeks to become only the fourth country to successfully land on the moon, after Russian Federation, the US and China. "Make us proud", he said Thursday. There were about a dozen more unmanned landings by the United States and Soviets.
These were "hard landings", meaning the craft crashed into the moon.
SpaceIL was originally building the Beresheet lander for the Google Lunar X Prize, but continued on with the lander after the contest ended in March 2018 without a victor for the $20 million award.
It will eventually be captured by the moon's gravity where it will enter a lunar orbit.
From there, the spacecraft will execute a series of manoeuvres to reach its destination between the landing sites of Apollo 15 and 17 by mid-April.
"Israel is a very small country, as small as New Jersey, and we're shooting for the moon, SpaceIL manager of the Beresheet program Yigal Harel said".
SpaceIL was established in 2011, aiming to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon.
If the mission succeeds, it could unlock information the moon's iron core. SpaceIL is continuing with at least some of these mission objectives, but it's going to be a long process.
Beresheet will stay on the moon until someday, perhaps, Israeli astronauts can retrieve it.
There are no plans for Beresheet to leave the moon, so its creators have also added historical, cultural, and scientific materials on three disks to serve as a sort of time capsule and monument to the first Israeli spacecraft. SpaceX also launched and recovered its first-stage booster on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, despite what it called hard landing conditions. The first competitors to do it would win a $US20 million first-place prize.
As one of the commenters on a YouTube clip of the launch noted, look how much tiny, resource-strained Israel has managed to achieve in the short 70 years of its modern existence? Despite the closing of the competition, SpaceIL continued with the project. The lander will use a thruster from Norwegian supplier Nammo to reach the moon, and to conduct a 500-meter "hop" to another location on the lunar surface.
But SpaceIL and IAI pushed ahead, surviving financial challenges to complete the lander.
Upon landing, Beresheet should transmit data from the moon for about two days.