By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency
Jerusalem, Israel — April 6, 2019 … Beresheet (Hebrew for Genesis) – Israel’s first spacecraft to land on the moon, has entered lunar orbit and is on an “excellent” track, according to data from the SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) engineering teams at their control room in Yehud, Israel.
During its lunar orbit, Beresheet will be at its nearest point to the moon (perilune) at 470 km (292 miles) from the lunar surface, and the farthest from the moon (apolune) at 10,400 km (6,462 miles).
A more definite time will be announced in the next few days. During the coming week, SpaceIL and IAI will conduct a series of intense maneuvers with the spacecraft in preparation for the landing.
During the critical Lunar Capture maneuver, when the spacecraft entered the moon’s orbit from the Earth’s orbit, Beresheet provided dramatic pictures of the moon while activating its engines.
Beresheet, built by SpaceIL, a nonprofit in Israel, is the first privately funded venture to send a spacecraft into orbit from Earth. SpaceIL was originally aiming to win a $20 million Google Lunar X Prize as the first private robotic craft to set down on the moon, but the deadline passed last year. SpaceIL pushed on even without the monetary incentive.
“Our luck is still holding, and we’re going to make it,” said Morris Kahn, an Israeli telecommunications billionaire who provided financial backing to the mission.
“After six weeks in space, we have succeeded in overcoming another critical stage by entering the moon’s gravity,” said SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby. “We still have a long way until the lunar landing, but I’m convinced our team will land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, making us all proud.”
Beresheet is equipped with a high-resolution camera to capture panoramic views of the landing site to help scientists better understand the area. The Israeli spacecraft also carries a small “time capsule” loaded with photos and cultural artifacts, including a copy of the Bible engraved on a coin-size disk.
If all is successful, SpaceIL will join just NASA, the former Soviet Union and China in successfully landing a spacecraft on the moon.