Apr 08, 2019 07:56 PM EDT
ISRAEL -- The Israeli Beresheet spacecraft was launched with the mission to gather images, data and to measure the magnetic fields of the Moon. By April 11, 2019, Beresheet is expected to make its first lunar landing around 4 pm. The spacecraft was able to enter the lunar orbit early Thursday, capturing a beautiful image of the Earth's natural satellite.
The spacecraft is unmanned, but it promises to put Israel on the map with the only three other countries in the world who has made its soft landing on the moon -- US, China and the Soviet Union. All these three countries have successfully made a soft landing on the lunar surface and by the end of the week, Israel would be among them. The spacecraft was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on February 21 of this year. If the mission is successful, the landing would be one for the books as it is the first private mission to ever reach the surface of the Moon.
The word Beresheet means "beginning." It was developed through the initiative of SpaceIL, a non-profit organization in Israel, in collaboration with the Israel Aerospace Industries, a government-controlled organization. In the coming weeks, both agencies will be working hard to conduct a series of possible maneuvers with Beresheet. This is in preparation for its landing, according to the statement released on Friday.
The concept behind the Beresheet idea was born out of a competition -- Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. The goal was to send an unmanned spacecraft in space and hopefully land on the moon. The competition which has a grand prize of $30 million dollars was later scrapped as the organizers felt that none of the five finalist would be able to make it happen. The deadline has been set to March 31, 2018.
Nonetheless, this did not stop the Israeli government to pursue its mission of sending out this 397 pound spacecraft. The probe is expected to land at the Northern hemisphere of the moon. SpaceIL says that the site comes with magnetic anomalies, which will then enable the magnetometer of the Beresheet to take measurements for further experiment. All the data that is expected to be collected by the Beresheet will be shared with NASA.
Apart from the science mission that the Beresheet aims for, it also took with it a time capsule. It is consist of three disks that includes the symbols of Israel, dictionaries of 27 different languages, the Bible and the Children's book that served as the inspiration for the project. The capsules as well as the Beresheet as expected to stay on the surface of the moon indefinitely.
Space missions to the moon has always been fascinating even after fifty years since the launch of the Apollo 11. Israel may be a small country, but with Beresheet in motion to the moon, it is about to make history unfold.
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