Israeli lunar lander speeding towards touch down

Beresheet, built by Israeli non-profit SpaceIL, is the first private Moon mission

Beresheet, the world’s first mission to the moon, is well on its way to success.

Beresheet means “in the beginning” in Hebrew. Built by Israeli non-profit SpaceIL for the now-defunct $20 million Google Lunar XPrize, the program was meant to inspire more Israelis to pursue STEM careers and chart the Moon’s history.

In addition to providing high-resolution imagery from the surface, Beresheet will measure the magnetic field at its landing site in Mare Serenitatis, which has magnetic anomalies detected by Kaguya, Lunar Prospector, and Luna 21 mission. Understanding the Moon’s magnetism teaches us about its history. While Earth has a global magnetic field caused by the continued churning of liquid metal near the core, the Moon does not. But 3.6 billion years ago, the Moon had a magnetic field just as strong as Earth’s.

When new-forming rocks solidify from their melted states, they lock in traces of the ambient magnetic field at the time. By looking at the ages of different regions and the strength of the magnetic field embedded in rocks, scientists can piece together the Moon’s history.

Beresheet began its journey February 22. Yesterday, the lander took a selfie and was photo-bombed by Planet Earth.

The Twitter account tracking the moon lander that was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral last month posted the selfie that shows a placard with the Israeli flag in the foreground and Earth in the background.

The placard reads “Small Country, Big Dreams” and the Hebrew phrase “Am Yisrael chai,” which can be translated to “The Jewish nation lives.”

The image was taken a little more than 23,000 miles away from the planet. The moon is about 240,000 miles away. Israel’s target date for landing on the moon is April 11.

Despite malfunctions and complications caused by a faulty star tracker navigational system, Beresheet is on track to reach its destination.

According to a statement by SpaceIL, the private Israeli company which designed and built Beresheet, the lunar lander spacecraft successfully executed the maneuver at 3:11 p.m. Israel time – despite ongoing problems with the spacecraft’s star tracker navigation system.

“Today at 3:11 p.m. (Israel time), a maneuver of the Beresheet spacecraft was successfully carried out by the ground team of SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries. The Beresheet spacecraft is on its way towards an elliptical orbit, which has a maximum distance of 270,000 kilometers (167,770 miles) from the Earth.”

“The maneuver was complicated due to the need to deal with the constraints of the star trackers, but was successfully carried out according to plan. During the maneuver Beresheet’s main engine was activated for 152 seconds.”

“The next maneuver is planned to take place in roughly two weeks.”

Beresheet will be captured into lunar orbit on April 4, then drop softly onto the moon’s surface on April 11. Stay tuned for a fun update!







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