Spaceflight Insider

SpaceIL’s Beresheet now in lunar orbit

SpaceIL's Beresheet lunar lander takes selfie on its journey to the Moon. Photo Credit: SpaceIL

SpaceIL’s Beresheet lunar lander takes selfie on its journey to the Moon. Photo Credit: SpaceIL

After firing its engines for six minutes, the Beresheet Moon lander transitioned from a highly-elliptical Earth orbit to a new lunar orbit.

At 10:18 a.m. EDT (14:18 GMT) April 4, 2019, the spacecraft fired its engine to slow its velocity relative to the Moon by 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) to 4,700 miles (7,500 kilometers), placing it in an elliptical lunar orbit.

“The lunar capture is an historic event in and of itself—but it also joins Israel in a seven-nation club that has entered the moon’s orbit,” SpaceIL chairman, Morris Kahn, said in a news release. “A week from today we’ll make more history by landing on the moon, joining three super powers who have done so. Today I am proud to be an Israeli.”

Engineers cheer as SpaceIL's lunar lander successfully entered into a lunar orbit. Photo Credit: SpaceIL

Engineers cheer as SpaceIL’s lunar lander successfully entered into a lunar orbit. Photo Credit: SpaceIL

The spacecraft launched aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on Feb. 22 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The 1,290-pound (585-kilogram) vehicle had been slowly raising its Earth orbit to perform a low velocity transfer into lunar space. The maneuver sets up the spacecraft for an April 11 landing in the Sea of Serenity.

“After six weeks in space, we have succeeded in overcoming another critical stage by entering the moon’s gravity,” SpaceIL CEO Ido Antenby said in a news release. “This is another significant achievement our engineering team achieved while demonstrating determination and creativity in finding solutions to unexpected challenges. We still have a long way until the lunar landing, but I‘m convinced our team will complete the mission to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, making us all proud.”

Beresheet, Hebrew for Genesis, is the first private lunar lander to ever launch. Built be the Israeli non-profit SpaceIL, it is carrying a few simple experiments including a laser retroreflector from NASA’s Goddard Flight Center and a magnetometer from the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The retroreflector is designed to allow for precise measurements of the lunar distance and is similar to those left on the Moon by astronauts during the Apollo missions.

Along with the scientific instruments, Beresheet is carrying a time capsule containing the Torah, a complete copy of the English language version of Wikipedia as well as a copy of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The craft is also carrying drawings from school children and the Israeli flag.

While the journey to the lunar surface will be a long one, the spacecraft is not expected to operate for more than a short period of time. After a soft touchdown, Beresheet is expected to transmit information for only two days before the heat of the lunar day damages the electronics.

Video courtesy of SpaceIL



Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.

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