Space research firm Space IL announced early this week that its spacecraft Beresheet which is bound for the moon has already reached the lunar orbit and is likely to make a landing within a week. Its main engine was fired mid-morning to slowdown the spacecraft’s speed to around 1000 kilometers per hour so that it gets captured by moon’s orbit and gravitational pull. SpaceIL stated that this slow-down down maneuver went on as expected and the spacecraft is in elliptical orbit and success of this operation would mark first mission to the moon for Israel.
Beresheet was launched on 21st February as a secondary payload by Falcon 9 rocket of Space X and released into elliptical orbit of earth. After this the spacecraft was released it performed a series of activities to raise its orbit’s apogee to around 400,000 kilometers which put the craft into a trajectory that can approach the moon easily. Over a period of time Beresheet will first move into 200 kilometer circular orbit in preparation of its first landing attempt which is scheduled for 11th April. If things go as per plan the spacecraft will make a smooth landing on the moon at Sea of Serenity which is located on its northern hemisphere.
On successful completion of the lunar lander Israel will become the fourth nation to make a smooth landing on moon’s surface after Russia, US and China and the seventh nation to go around the moon. The project with cost overlay of $100 million began with an attempt by a small Israel based group named as SpaceIL to win Google’s Lunar X Prize that would help to spark interest in science and engineering among Israeli students. They received funding from philanthropic sources and also help from Israel Aerospace Industries to make the lander. The firm is now offering versions of Beresheet’s lander to customers like Germany based OHB.