Israel to the Moon: Beresheet moves into Moon orbit

JUST IN: Moon-bound Israeli spacecraft Beresheet has completed maneuvers to go into orbit around the moon.

At 5:15 p.m. Israel time Beresheet fired its engines for six minutes, slowing down enough to be captured by the moon’s gravity. Although the maneuver appeared to have been executed without problems, it’ll be half a day before confirmation that the spacecraft has entered its intended orbit.

If lunar capture is successful, Beresheet is scheduled to land on a lunar plane called Mare Serenitatis, or Sea of Serenity, on April 11, after orbiting it at distances of up to 10,000 km. While the first orbits will last 14 hours, the last ones before landing will be as short as two hours as the spacecraft draws closer.

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Right now, a backup copy of humanity’s collective knowledge is on its way to the surface of the Moon.

If Israel’s spacecraft venture proceeds as planned, it would become the fourth country after Russia, the US, and China, — and by far the smallest — country to do so.

It would also become the first private enterprise to make a controlled landing on the moon, with the smallest spacecraft to do it, and by far the least expensive mission.

The spacecraft—called “Beresheet,” a reference to the first words of the Bible in Hebrew: “In the beginning…”—will reach the moon on April 11 at the Sea of Serenity, from where it will send back images of the rocky surface and conduct experiments on the lunar magnetic field.

Its first task, however, will be to plant an Israeli flag on the moon.

Beresheet is carrying the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Israeli flag, images of historic Israeli milestones and a 30-million-page archive of human knowledge etched into a DVD-sized metal disc.

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