Beresheet (Genesis), the first Israeli spacecraft to be sent to the moon, successfully completed its first maneuver on Sunday, despite challenges initially encountered after the launch on Friday morning.
The planned maneuver took into account the problems that were identified regarding the star trackers’ high sensitivity to blinding by the sun’s rays. The star trackers are used for navigation.
This was the first time Beresheet’s main engine was activated. The 30-second maneuver was made at a distance of 69,400 km from Earth and will increase the spacecraft’s closest point of approach to Earth to a distance of 600 km.
Beresheet is on course according to the planned schedule, and the next maneuver is scheduled for Monday night.
If the mission is successful, the 160-kilogram unmanned four-legged spacecraft will be the smallest and cheapest spacecraft to land on the moon.
Beresheet is the creation of SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit, in collaboration with the IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) and with a contribution by the ISA (Israel Space Agency) of the Department of Science and Technology.
Beresheet is slated to touch down in the moon’s Sea of Tranquility on April 11.
Relating to the historic mission during his remarks at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “something else that is important for the State of Israel is what happened last Friday morning. The State of Israel made history and launched the first Israeli spacecraft to the moon. I watched the launch from the control room. It was a moment of great pride and emotion. This is a very great step for the State of Israel and a huge step for Israeli technology.”
“I want Israeli citizens to know that our Tanakh [Bible] will reach the moon, also the phrase etched below the camera – Am Yisrael Chai [the People of Israel lives]. This is something that could only be dreamed of,” he added.
The spacecraft is carrying a time capsule which consists of three discs, each containing hundreds of digital files, including Israeli national symbols like Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the Bible, Israel’s national anthem “Hatikvah” and the Israeli flag.
“Now we need to hope that the spacecraft completes its mission and lands on the moon. This is the more difficult part. But even so, the very fact that we are the fourth country — after three major powers, the US, Russia and China, the three countries that have launched [spacecraft] to the moon – that is trying, and perhaps will succeed in being the fourth country, is a great honor for the State of Israel and an expression of confidence in our capabilities, in our daring and in our future,” he concluded.