Space

First ever private lunar mission enters orbit around the Moon

Render of the Beresheet lander on the Moon's surface
Render of the Beresheet lander on the Moon's surface
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Beresheet's journey to the Moon began in February this year
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Beresheet's journey to the Moon began in February this year
The Beresheet lander was originally developed for the Google Lunar XPrize competition
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The Beresheet lander was originally developed for the Google Lunar XPrize competition
Render of the Beresheet lander on the Moon's surface
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Render of the Beresheet lander on the Moon's surface

A historic mission to the Moon is approaching its crescendo, with the Israeli-built Beresheet lander today entering orbit around our biggest satellite and preparing to close in on its surface. If successful, it will become the first privately built spacecraft to touch down on the Moon, and would make Israel just the fourth nation to do so after the US, the Soviet Union and China.

Beresheet, which is Hebrew for "In the Beginning," launched from Cape Canaveral in February atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, where it became the first private mission to the Moon to reach lift-off. Originally built for the Google Lunar XPrize competition (which ended with no winner), the spacecraft is actually the lightest ever sent to the Moon with a mass of just 1,322 lb (600 kg).

Once it makes it to the lunar surface, Beresheet will return images, videos and data gathered by a magnetometer, to explore the possibility of a magnetic field on the Moon in the past, and a small laser retroreflector, which will be tested as a potential navigation tool. But there's room for sentimentality, too, with a digital time capsule also packed aboard containing an Israeli flag, a holocaust survivor memorial and the Israeli Declaration of Independence, along with other bits and pieces.

Beresheet's journey to the Moon began in February this year
Beresheet's journey to the Moon began in February this year

The organization behind the lander, SpaceIL, confirmed it had moved into circulation around the Moon today, with the spacecraft entering an elliptical orbit. If all goes to plan, the spacecraft will touch down on an ancient volcanic field on the Moon known as the Sea of Serenity on April 11.

The video below demonstrates how Beresheet was moved into lunar orbit.

Source: NASA, SpaceIL

SpaceIL - Beresheet's planned Lunar Capture

5 comments
Jasbee_Jones
Kerbal Space Program gives me a deep respect for the people who successfully placed the spacecraft into orbit around the moon.
npublici
A daunting task for such a small nation.
Gregg Eshelman
It's much easier in Kerbal Space Program because the Mun's orbit is both perfectly circular and perfectly equatorial. But the Kerbal Space Center isn't quite on the Kerbin equator, so that adds a bit of difficulty. Fly with MechJeb and it's much easier. Same way real spaceflights are done, with computer control.
Rupe
To put this in context - India's also reached the surface (10yrs ago with an impactor, not a lander), and Japan & Europe have had orbiters. So this would make Israel the 7th country to reach the moon, but just the 4th (after the USSR, USA & China) to put a lander on it...
Jason Catterall
Please, please, PLEASE land at one of the earlier Moon landing sites and send back some photos to shut up all those damn conspiracy theorists that claim we never went. Oh... hang on, they'll just claim these photos are fake too.
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