April 21, 2019

Israel to Land First Private Robotic Spacecraft, Beresheet, on The Moon Ever

11 April 2019, 10:53 | Edward Lowe

Image Source

Image Source

"Supporting SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) with this mission is a prime example of how we can do more, together".

The unmanned robotic lander dubbed Beresheet - Hebrew for the biblical phrase "in the beginning" - has travelled through space for seven weeks in a series of expanding orbits around Earth before crossing into the moon's gravity last week.

So far, only three other nations have carried out controlled "soft" landings of spacecraft on the lunar surface - the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.

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The 49-day journey is likely the longest flight to have been listed on the Airport Authority's website and obviously a gag, but the cute tribute comes to show how excited Israel is about Beresheet's expected moon landing.

It is expected to land in the Sea of Serenity, on the northern hemisphere of the moon's near side, and if successful will measure the magnetic field at the landing site, and send back data and pictures. By the time it's fifteen feet above the ground, it should be slowed to a complete stop. The craft launched almost two months ago on its mission to the Moon with the help of SpaceX and one of its Falcon 9 rockets.

Beresheet captured this selfie on its way to the Moon. The first of a number of rocket engine firings was accomplished three days after liftoff and the team overcame issues involving a star tracker as well as an unexpected computer reset (likely due to cosmic radiation) to get the lander into lunar orbit on April 4th. But with the original prize money off the table, mission managers don't want to risk Beresheet with any additional maneuvers once it lands.

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Israelis are looking skyward tonight as the Genesis spacecraft - the name was chosen in an online vote - is scheduled to touch down on Thursday between 10:00-11:00 p.m. Israel time (3:00-4:00 p.m. EDT).

If the landing is successful, the Beresheet lander is created to last 2-3 days on the surface as there is no thermal control system, so the lander will overheat in the lunar day.

The project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered $30 million in awards to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to come up with relatively low-priced moon missions. This will help scientists understand the Moon's geologic history better. If the unmanned, 350-pound vehicle successfully touches down on the lunar surface, it will be the smallest and cheapest spacecraft to ever achieve the feat. After the mission concludes, IAI is looking at the possibility of offering the lander design for commercial lunar missions.

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