Science

As Beresheet heads to moon, Israeli team probes problem with navigation sensors

As Beresheet heads to moon, Israeli team probes problem with navigation sensors”

Antebi says SpaceIL wants to show that a small country, with a small budget can join the prestigious moon landing club of the US, Russia, and China.

"This is the first mission of a small country to the moon", and a non-governmental effort at that, SpaceIL Chief Executive Officer Ido Anteby told reporters near Tel Aviv.

SpaceX set a company record past year with 21 launches for customers including commercial satellite operators and the USA military, and Thursday's launch is its 70th total. Once landed, Beresheet's mission will be to transmit photo and videos of the surface, as well as to conduct scientific measurements.

The two other payloads set for deployment are a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force. The craft went up Thursday on a SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying a triple payload.

On Friday, NASA is expected to decide whether to give its final go-ahead to SpaceX for a first, unmanned test flight on March 2 of a new capsule created to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

As one of the commenters on a YouTube clip of the launch noted, look how much tiny, resource-strained Israel has managed to achieve in the short 70 years of its modern existence? The lander, whose name is Hebrew for "Genesis", began a two month journey to the moon using its own propulsion.

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.

SpaceIL does not plan to continue after this mission. However, the competition was canceled in January 2018 when it became clear that none of the contestants would reach the moon by the specified deadline. The mission is part of the renewed global interest in the Moon, sometimes called the "eighth continent" of the Earth, and comes 50 years after American astronauts first walked on the lunar surface. "Make us proud", he said Thursday.

After all, the Apollo missions flew directly to the moon, landing less than a week after launch.

The SpaceIL strategy of gradually raising Beresheet's orbit around Earth, however, helps to keep the lander's price tag low.

"In religion and ethics, science and scholarship, we have long reached for the stars; now we are rightfully reaching the moon". Watching the launch with his wife Sara at the IAI Control Center in Yehud, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "The State of Israel is a rising world power - rising to the moon".

But it will have just enough time to carry out its primary objectives: plant an Israeli flag on the moon, measure the moon's magnetic field, study surrounding lunar craters, and of course, take some epic lunar selfies.



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