TEL AVIV – Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft finally entered lunar orbit over the weekend, and the SpaceIL team celebrated by releasing jaw-dropping photographs captured by the spacecraft of the far side of the moon.
The images were taken about 470 km (292 miles) above the moon. Israel is the seventh nation in the world to successfully enter the moon’s orbit. Doing so entails a complicated maneuver in which the spacecraft must hop from earth’s orbit to the moon’s — as seen below in a demonstration video released by SpaceIL.
First successful maneuver around the #moon by SpaceIL and IAI. #Beresheet's engine operated for 271 seconds and burned 55 kg fuel, while reducing the Apolune from 10,400 km to 750 km from the moon. New photos from 550 km & 2500 km from the far side of the moon. #IsraeltotheMoon pic.twitter.com/6N8yEPSDeE
— Israel To The Moon (@TeamSpaceIL) April 7, 2019
With four days left until the April 11 landing date, SpaceIL‘s engineers are attempting a series of maneuvers to transform Beresheet’s elliptical orbit into a circular orbit 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the surface of the moon.
#Beresheet is in an excellent orbit! during the critical maneuver yesterday Beresheet took some amazing photos of the far side of the #Moon!
picture A: The far side of the moon during the maneuver at 470 km Hight.
picture B: The far side of the moon with Earth in the background pic.twitter.com/3brI45PuyY
— Israel To The Moon (@TeamSpaceIL) April 5, 2019
The team are hoping the lander will touch down near Mare Serenitatis, or the Sea of Serenity, which is on the near side of the moon.
Beresheet needed to decelerate from 8,500 kilometers per hour (5,280 miles per hour) to 7,500 kilometers per hour (4,660 miles per hour) in order to successfully enter lunar orbit.
Of the seven nations that have entered the moon’s orbit, only the U.S., Russia and China succeeded in landing on the moon. The others lost control and crashed on the moon’s surface.
If the April 11 landing goes smoothly, it will mark the first privately-funded moon-landing.
“There is a significant chance we have a crash landing,” said Opher Doron, the space division general manager at Israel Aerospace Industries. “It’s very dangerous, and it’s difficult to predict if we’ll succeed.”