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Jason DavisMarch 28, 2019

Beresheet Gears up for Lunar Rendezvous

Nearly a month after successfully launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceIL's Beresheet lander is gearing up for its rendezvous with Moon. The spacecraft is set to enter lunar orbit on 4 April at 17:57 UTC (13:57 EDT).

Beresheet

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News brief

As of Thursday, 28 March, Beresheet is making its final orbit around the Earth. On 30 March, it will hit perigee, buzz past its home planet one last time, and head towards the Moon, roughly 405,000 kilometers distant. SpaceIL senior engineer Yoav Landsman said the spacecraft will make a small trajectory correction on 1 April. The duration of the lunar insertion burn on 4 April, as well as the parameters of the initial lunar orbit, have yet to be decided, but SpaceIL was originally planning for an orbit roughly 10,000 by 300 kilometers. Landing won't happen for another week, on 11 April.

Now that Beresheet is so far from home, it has started making use of its partnership with NASA to use the Deep Space Network for communications. Earlier this week, it successfully chatted with flight controllers via the DSN at a rate of 1.0 kilobits per second:

DSS 54 receiving data from SPIL at 1.0kb/s.
IN LOCK IN LOCK 1 TURBO

— Deep Space Network (@dsn_status) March 25, 2019

Looking homeword, SpaceIL and its contractor, Israel Aerospace Industries, have released several in-flight images and videos from Beresheet. First, here's a shot from the spacecraft's inward-facing selfie camera, which has a shorter focal length than the spacecraft's 5 outward-facing cameras. This allows the team to keep an Israeli flag-bearing plaque in focus, with a fuzzy Earth in the background:

Beresheet selfie with Earth

SpaceIL

Beresheet selfie with Earth
This image from Beresheet was captured on 3 March 2019 from a distance of 37,600 kilometers, with the spacecraft's inward-facing selfie camera, during the mission's Earth orbit-raising period. Australia is visible on Earth.

Here's another, with Africa prominent. This photo was especially important to the team because it contains Israel:

Beresheet selfie with Africa and Israel

SpaceIL / IAI

Beresheet selfie with Africa and Israel
This selfie from Beresheet shows Earth with Africa prominently displayed, and includes Israel. It was taken 131,000 km from Earth. Here's another, with Africa prominent. This photo was especially important to the team because it contains Israel:

Here's a more direct shot of Earth from 19 March, at a distance of 15,000 kilometers. The western coast of South America is visible:

South America from Beresheet

SpaceIL / IAI

South America from Beresheet
This image of Earth was captured from Beresheet on 19 March at a distance of 15,000 kilometers. The western coast of South America is visible near the center.

This neat video shows Beresheet deploying its landing legs shortly after being released from the Falcon 9 last month:

Beresheet deploys its landing legs shortly after being deployed from its Falcon 9 launch vehicle on 22 February 2019. In the background, the Moon is visible, as is the rocket's upper stage re-orienting itself with thruster puffs.

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SpaceIL / Yoav Landsman

And finally, here’s a sunrise video!

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Read more: Beresheet, mission status, the Moon

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Jason Davis

Digital Editor for The Planetary Society
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