Israeli spacecraft reaches the moon

Christopher Davidson
April 11, 2019

Beresheet was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on February 21. Beresheet, which is the size of a washing machine and weighs about 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds), was expected to bounce about 500 metres along the moon's surface, taking panoramic photos and measuring the body's magnetic field.

The Israeli Beresheet spacecraft has crashed into the Moon.

The probe was expected to land within Mare Serenitatis in the Moon's northern hemisphere.

The project was originally intended as a contended in the now defunct Google Lunar X Prize and is estimated to have cost, in space flight terms, a modest $95million. No other spacecraft has taken such a long road to the moon.

The Beresheet doesn't have backup systems so any major failure would have doomed the mission, but so far the craft has been functioning.

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).

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Ahead of the vote, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had said he hoped the elections could help bring peace . By 8:00pm (1700 GMT), overall turnout was 61.3 per cent compared to 62.4 per cent at the same time in 2015 elections.

The competition ended previous year without a victor, but SpaceIL and partner Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the country's biggest aerospace and defense company, continued working on the 5-foot-tall (1.5 meters) Beresheet.

The $100 million mission, the first spacecraft from a smaller, non-superpower country set to land on the lunar surface, as well as the first private lunar landing mission, will communicate with six ground stations on Earth, and will be supported by the Deep Space Network, as all missions beyond Earth have communications going through a facility at JPL. That 32-second maneuver shifted the spacecraft into a highly elliptical orbit with a closest lunar approach of just 9 to 10 miles (15 to 17 kilometers) and a most-distant point 125 miles (200 km) from the gray dirt, mission team members said.

In addition to its science mission, Beresheet carried a time capsule to the Moon.

The the only country to send humans to the moon with 12 men walking on its surface during the Apollo missions between 1969-1972. And it also sports a Laser Retroreflector Array that will allow other spacecraft to zero in on its landing site to within 4 inches by bouncing lasers off Beresheet, which will lend context to the data the craft sends back about its surroundings. The $30 million competition was scrapped with no victor a year ago after the organizers said none of the five finalists would make the March 31, 2018 deadline for a Moon launch, reports.

People watch the live broadcast of the SpaceIL spacecraft as it lost contact with Earth in Netanya, Israel, on Thursday.

Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated byKarl Tate), is out now.

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