Science

Ben-Gurion Airport? Make sure you don't accidentally land on the moon

Ben-Gurion Airport? Make sure you don't accidentally land on the moon”

But that could be about to change, as a washing-machine-sized, privately funded Israeli spacecraft approaches the moon.

Live coverage of the landing was scheduled to begin at 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday and it was expected to be available on the SpaceIL YouTube channel for anyone to watch.

Marked as "not final", Beresheet's touchdown is expected at Ben Gurion's Terminal 3, according to the site.

Once Genesis touches the lunar surface, Israel will have entered the history books as only the fourth country to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon, sharing the honor with far larger countries with much deeper pockets - the U.S., China and Russian Federation. The Beresheet spacecraft is traveling in an elliptical orbit around the moon at some 6,120 km per hour, and the landing process, which is autonomous, will begin at an altitude of 25 km and at a distance of 800 km from the landing site.

So far, only three other nations have carried out controlled "soft" landings of spacecraft on the lunar surface - the United States, the former Soviet Union and China. The competition offered $20 million for the first non-governmental entity to land a spacecraft on the moon. The spacecraft's engines were activated for 32 seconds and 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of fuel were consumed.

It part-funded by Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn and the Israel Space Agency.

Beresheet is set to land in an area on the moon known as Mare Serenitatis because this region is supposed to have some "magnetic anomalies" that the Israeli teams hope to analyze using an onboard magnetometer. After landing, it will take a selfie.

The craft will be armed with instruments to measure the moon's magnetism, says Oded Aharonson who is heading the mission's science team.

Beresheet is the smallest spacecraft ever to be sent to the moon.

Genesis got its start in 2010 when three young Israeli engineers - Yonatan Winetraub, Yariv Bash and Kfir Damari - registered for the Google Lunar X Prize competition. On the top side of the lander, solar panels, cameras, and scientific experiments are mounted on the deck, and a plaque with the Israeli flag is also on the top deck. The launch was the 70th successful launch for SpaceX. It was built by Israeli non-profit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defence contractor, Israel Aerospace Industries, with $100 million USA furnished nearly entirely by private donors.



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