The launching of the first Israeli lunar spacecraft Beresheet

The launching of the first Israeli lunar spacecraft Beresheet

The launching of the first Israeli lunar spacecraft Beresheet

What just happened? Israel has launched its first lunar lander.

The two other payloads set for deployment are a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force.

"We thought it's about time for a change, and we want to get little Israel all the way to the moon", said Yonatan Winetraub, co-founder of Israel's SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization behind the effort.

SpaceX is now testing a system to recover the fairings of its Falcon 9 rockets.

So far, only Russian Federation, the United States and China have made the 384,000-kilometer (239,000-mile) journey and landed spacecraft on the Moon.

SpaceIL was originally building the Beresheet lander for the Google Lunar X Prize, but continued on with the lander after the contest ended in March 2018 without a victor for the $20 million award. But Yigel Harel, the head of SpaceIL's Spacecraft program, pointed out during a press conference that, "We realized right at the beginning that we don't have a Saturn V engine".

"Initial data was received in the control room in Yehud [Israel], the spacecraft's legs deployed as planned and Beresheet started in-orbit tests while cruising to the moon", Nimrod Sheffer, CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), said in a statement.

Read our full coverage of SpaceIL's unprecedented mission to land on the moon.

After that, it will take a month to reach an orbit 250 miles from Earth, and then continue to circle farther out until it is captured into a lunar orbit. The spacecraft is also equipped with the ability to "hop" short distances on the moon, and engineers say they're confident it carries the fuel to do so.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated the Israeli team for carrying out the mission, saying, "this is a historic step for all nations and commercial space as we look to extend our collaborations beyond low-Earth orbit and on to the Moon".

But before it can land, Beresheet must make it to the moon, and its six-week jaunt around the Earth may seem like an odd approach.

At the launch was the SpaceFlight Insider team to bring you fantastic imagery.

First Beresheet will orbit the Earth for not quite two months. Data will be relayed via the USA space agency NASA's Deep Space Network to SpaceIL's Israel-based ground station Yehud.

Beresheet is created to spend just two to three days using on-board instruments to photograph its landing site and measure the moon's magnetic field. Once it lands, the probe will conduct various experiments on the Moon's surface, testing its magnetism and geology.

Under the original terms of the Google Lunar X Prize contest, Beresheet would have been required to fire thrusters and hop to a new location at least 500 meters away from the landing site.

Related news

[an error occurred while processing the directive]