Beresheet (which means “Genesis” in Hebrew), Israel’s first Moon mission spacecraft has sent an amazing selfie with Earth in the background today.
In the photo, a plaque on the side of moon lander features the flag of Israel and phrases “Am Yisrael Chai” (which means roughly “The Jewish nation lives” or “the people of Israel are still alive”) and “small country, big dreams”.
The Beresheet spacecraft took this photo with its “selfie camera” when it was about 37,600 kilometers (23,000 miles) away from the Earth. When it was taken, the moon-bound spacecraft was in the middle of a slow spin, with Australia visible in the background.
SpaceIL began as a competitor of the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP, see notes 1), sometimes referred to as Moon 2.0, which offered US$30 million in prizes to inspire teams to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. SpaceIL ‘s entry was unique among GLXP contenders, in that instead of building a tracked or wheeled rover, SpaceIL planned to meet the requirement to travel 500 meters (1,600 ft) on the lunar surface by having the lander “hop” using rocket engine propulsion from its landing site to another site more than 500 meters away.
SpaceIL successfully launched its Beresheet lander on February 22, 2019. The 585kg (1,290lb) spacecraft took off on a Falcon 9 rocket from the private US-based SpaceX company of entrepreneur Elon Musk. It is expected to land on the Moon’s surface on April 11/12, 2019.
The landing will be at the Mare Serenitatis (“Sea of Serenity”), a lunar mare located to the east of Mare Imbrium on the Moon. Its diameter is 674 km (419 miles). The Beresheet mission includes plans to measure the Moon‘s local magnetic field to help understand how it formed, and also carries a digital “time capsule”.
Beresheet would be the first Israeli spacecraft to travel beyond Earth orbit and the first private lander on the Moon. Israel would also become the fourth country, after the Soviet Union, the United States, and China, to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
The SpaceIL team was founded as a nonprofit organization wishing to promote scientific and technological education in Israel. Its total budget for the mission is estimated at US$95 million, provided by Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn and other philanthropists, as well as the Israel Space Agency (ISA).
- Google Lunar X Prize was a 2007-2018 inducement prize space competition organized by the X Prize Foundation and sponsored by Google. By the beginning of the year 2018, five teams remained in the competition: SpaceIL, Moon Express, Synergy Moon, Team Indus, and Team Hakuto. On January 23, 2018, the X Prize Foundation announced that “no team would be able to make a launch attempt to reach the Moon by the (March 31, 2018] deadline, and the US$30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE will go unclaimed.”
- “Israel’s first moon mission spacecraft sends back selfie” on The Guardian
- What is the meaning and significance of “Am Yisrael Chai”? on Quora
- “Israeli spacecraft snaps Earth ‘selfie’ with flag from 23,000 miles away” on The Times of Israel
- “SpaceIL’s Beresheet Lunar Lander: Israel’s 1st Trip to the Moon” on Space.com
- SpaceIL on Wikipedia
- Google Lunar X Prize on Wikipedia
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