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Israeli lunar lander speeding towards touch down

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 private 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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SpaceInvader | March 9, 2019 at 10:21 pm

“World’s first mission to the moon.” ?

DieJustAsHappy | March 9, 2019 at 10:36 pm

Am Yisrael Chai (The nation of Israel lives!)
(3:0 mins.)

As an added, the National Anthem of Israel – “Hatikvah” (The Hope) (5:50 mins.)

Why is Google’s xprize defunct? Because the Israelis were cruising towards victory?

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.

That rocket’s going to have to work a lot harder than that, or the lander is more likely to come down in the Promised Land than on the moon.

    DieJustAsHappy in reply to tom_swift. | March 10, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Reading the referenced article didn’t help me understand the distance question. The the average distance to the Moon is 384,403 km (238,857 miles). At its closest point the Moon is only 363,104 km (225,622 miles) away and at its most distant point the Moon is 406,696 km (252,088 miles) away.

    So, what the the “maximum distance of 270,000 kilometers (167,770 miles) from the Earth” represents is unclear to me.

      tom_swift in reply to DieJustAsHappy. | March 10, 2019 at 10:05 am

      The way they’re describing it, the vehicle’s elliptical orbit has an apogee of 167.8K miles from the Earth. That’s not close enough to the moon for the vehicle to fall into a lunar orbit; after passing apogee it will just fall back toward the Earth. I figure apogee has to be at least 50 thousand miles further out before the thing has any chance to fall into a lunar orbit.

      Milhouse in reply to DieJustAsHappy. | March 10, 2019 at 10:30 am

      This was a 152-second burn, which should boost it to a high earth orbit. In two weeks there will be another burn which will presumably be aimed at getting it from there into a lunar orbit, followed by deorbit burns. Funny that the landing will be just two days too late for Netanyahu to take advantage of it on election day.


Dos anyone remember the US time table for Moon exploration of the early 1970s? While the initial Integrated Program Plan was too optimistic, the revised plans made sense. Following the Apollo missions, we were supposed to start the construction of a military/scientific/commercial space station, to be in active service by the 19800s. A lunar habitat was supposed to be in service by the mid to late 1990s. And, we were going to have men on Mars, or at least in Mars orbit by 2000. Yet, too date we see none of this. The Nixon Administration essentially shutdown the entire space expansion program. And, it was never revived. There has been sporadic space exploration events since the 1970s, but they are not designed to get humanity off the surface of our world. Space exploration, an interesting conundrum.

    Milhouse in reply to Mac45. | March 11, 2019 at 1:43 am

    It should have been left to the private sector to begin with. It would have taken about 25 years longer, and the Soviets might well have got there first, but we’d still be there.

    tom_swift in reply to Mac45. | March 11, 2019 at 7:59 am

    In general, the future is overrated.

    I’m still waiting for my damn flying car.