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Light trail from the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the lunar lander into space from Cape Canaveral on Feb. 21, 2019. Photo: SpaceX

The first privately built lunar lander, a vehicle made in Israel, is on its way to the moon. It successfully deployed after launching at 8:45 p.m. Thursday off Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and is expected to land on the moon's surface in April.

Why it matters: Along with the U.S., the former Soviet Union and China were, until tonight, the only countries to successfully land spacecraft on the lunar surface. Axios' Andrew Freedman notes that this lander — named Beresheet, meaning "in the beginning" in Hebrew — is the first to be entirely financed and built by the private-sector. It demonstrates that the public-private space race is on, with the moon in many companies' and countries' sights.

NASA Administrator James Bridenstine issued the following statement:

"Congratulations to SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency. This is a historic step for all nations and commercial space as we look to extend our collaborations beyond low-Earth orbit and on to the Moon.
"In July, I was in Israel and was very impressed with their commitment to expanding their role in the world’s space community. As we better understand Israel’s capabilities and the innovative work of their private industry, we know they’ll be an even stronger international partner in the future, one vital to the success of extending commercial space to the Moon and eventually on to Mars and beyond. There are terrific opportunities awaiting Israel and all of us in advancing the space frontier."

Go deeper: Read Axios' special report on the space race

Go deeper

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.

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