Wish you were here

Beresheet shines light on dark side of the moon, day before landing

With last successful maneuver, Israel gears up to become 4th country to land on the moon on Thursday

Beresheet photographs the dark side of the moon on April 10, 2019 from a height of 2500 km. (courtesy Beresheet engineers)
Beresheet photographs the dark side of the moon on April 10, 2019 from a height of 2500 km. (courtesy Beresheet engineers)

With just a day to go before landing, the Beresheet spacecraft beamed back photos of the rarely seen dark side of the moon on Wednesday, before completing the final maneuver to position the spacecraft for landing on Thursday evening.

The privately funded spacecraft is now in its smallest elliptical orbit around the moon, completing a full rotation around the moon in just two hours. At its closest point, the spacecraft is 15-17 kilometers (9-10 miles) above the moon’s surface.

If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft will touch down on the moon’s surface on April 11 between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., making Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon.

Dozens of watch parties are planned across Israel, including a party at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem with President Reuven Rivlin. Viewers can also follow along at home on the Beresheet Facebook page or YouTube channel.

Last week, Beresheet’s engineers executed the most complicated maneuver yet, a perfectly choreographed space hop allowing the car-sized spacecraft to jump from an orbit around Earth to one around the moon — making Israel the seventh country in the world to achieve the feat.

The United States, Russia (as the USSR), Japan, China, the European Space Agency and India have all made visits to the moon via probes, though only the US, Russia and China have successfully landed on the moon; other probes crashed-landed on the surface.

If Israel successfully lands as planned on April 11, it will also be the first time that a privately financed venture has landed there.

The NIS 370 million ($100 million) spacecraft is a joint venture between the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, funded almost entirely by private donations from well-known Jewish philanthropists.

Beresheet, which means “Genesis” in Hebrew, lifted off on February 22 from Cape Canaveral in Florida atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the private US-based SpaceX company of entrepreneur Elon Musk.

The project launched as Israel’s entry into the Google LunarX challenge for nongovernmental groups to land a spacecraft on the moon. Google ended the contest in 2018 with no winners, but the Israeli team decided to continue its efforts privately.

Most Popular
read more: