Non-profit SpaceIL’s Beresheet is on its way to the Moon. Only China, the Soviet Union and the United States have safely landed there before. Host Mat Kaplan talks with SpaceIL Senior Systems Engineer Yoav Landsman, while MaryLiz Bender hears from a team member who attended the launch. Digital editor Jason Davis shares news about Hayabusa2’s successful touchdown on an asteroid. Want a rubber asteroid? You’ve got another chance to win one on this week’s What’s Up with Bruce Betts.
Of the five known dwarf planets, which is the only one not known to have a moon?
The answer will be revealed next week.
Question from the February 13th space trivia contest question:
What are the two brightest stars in the asterism (think constellation) the Big Dipper?
The two brightest stars (apparent brightness) in the asterism The Big Dipper are Dubhe (Alpha) and Alioth (Epilson).
Transcribed by Planetary Society volunteer Jake Bathman:
[Mat Kaplan]: In the beginning, Beresheet heads for the Moon, this week on Planetary Radio. Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of the Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. In a few weeks, a small Israeli non-profit may do something that only the three most advanced spacefaring nations have accomplished. In Hebrew, Beresheet means in the beginning. The lunar lander with that name has begun its journey. We'll talk with Yoav Landsman of SpaceIL, the team of inspired engineers, techs, and scientists behind this mission. And we'll hear from Associate Producer MaryLiz Bender, who was at the launch and met a SpaceIL team member who oversees what the mission is really all about. Later, another What's Up visit with Planetary Society Chief Scientist Bruce Betts. Jason Davis is the [00:01:00] Society's Digital Editor. He's back to share his reporting on the Japanese mission that has just reached a major milestone. Jason, it has been such a busy past few days and it's not going to let up for a while in space exploration. But we're going to focus in on mainly on Hayabusa2, you have done some great work on this.
[Jason Davis]: Yes. So Hayabusa last Friday touchdown successfully that was obviously the biggest moment of the mission so far. It fired a bullet into the surface of Ryugu and captured some material that sprayed up and safely backed away from the asteroid. So that was a huge success. We're still waiting for some more pictures to come down and see what exactly happened when it was close to the surface, but we did see one really cool picture where you can see the spacecraft's shadow and a little dark blotch where the thrusters turned on and kind of sprayed away some of the fine material on the surface so big success for them and we're looking forward to hearing [00:02:00] more soon.
[Mat Kaplan]: Just spectacular to see those shadows. You got the other one where the spacecraft is farther away, I guess it was on approach, and there's this little cute little shadow and that is well defined of the spacecraft being projected onto this this rock.
[Jason Davis]: This rubble pile slash rock. It looks like a Star Wars TIE fighter kind of you know, it has solar panels in the little thing in the middle. Yeah, it's pretty cool.
[Mat Kaplan]: Yeah. Well, this is what we this is what we humans do. We travel across vast distances, reach other bodies, and shoot at them.
[Jason Davis]: Yes. And we're not done. You know, there's another experiment on Hayabusa that will make even a larger crater. It uses an explosive to fire a copper bullet into the surface. It actually deploys this little explosives box and then the spacecraft hides behind the asteroid because this is a much bigger crater that's going to create. So yeah, stay tuned more cool stuff to come from this mission.
[Mat Kaplan]: You have these terrific new resources at planetary.org, we'll link to them from the show page [00:03:00] as well at planetary.org/radio, for basically everything you might want to know about Hayabusa2. And not just Hayabusa to but we're doing this with lots of missions including the one we're going to be talking about with our guests in a few moments, SpaceIL's Beresheet.
[Jason Davis]: We've changed the approach of our reporting just a little bit to have these really in-depth resource pages that go along with our coverage and then when there are new developments that way we kind of don't have to go back and explain the mission. If you're not caught up, you can just easily check out one of these kind of landing pages and get acquainted with the mission. Yeah, and you can reach those if you go to our Explore menu on the website and go to Space Missions, and then there's a nice landing page there that directs you to what we call our Hot Missions. So these are all the spacecraft that are doing lots of things right at the moment and there's a little map of the solar system there from the Planetary Report, our member magazine, and really cool resources. So yeah, I encourage everyone to go check it out.
[Mat Kaplan]: They are very [00:04:00] cool. And that's just not just my opinion. There are media people from all over the world who are now relying on these but anybody can go there and take a look. As I said, you do have the one from SpaceIL, Beresheet. And there was a development on that mission apparently, what, this morning or yesterday that I wasn't even aware of.
[Jason Davis]: They had a problem. They went to fire their engine to raise the orbit of the spacecraft because they're over the next few weeks they have to keep raising the orbit around Earth until finally they intersect with the Moon and they went to fire the engine and apparently they were out of communication with the spacecraft and the computer unexpectedly rebooted and so that triggered an immediate abort of the engine firing. From what we can tell this morning, the spacecraft is healthy. They're just trying to figure out what caused this reboot and I'm sure they'll give the engine firing another shot when they get a chance.
[Mat Kaplan]: Well thank goodness and and damn those cosmic rays or whatever caused this particular glitch.
[Jason Davis]: It reminds me of LightSail [00:05:00] following this mission, which I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I'm like, oh dear another thing happened, but they'll... I'm sure they'll overcome it.
[Mat Kaplan]: Jason, thank you.
[Jason Davis]: Thanks Mat.
[Mat Kaplan]: That's Jason Davis. He is our Digital Editor at the Planetary Society. And of course LightSail is relevant because he is also our main reporter on that mission, our embedded reporter, in the LightSail 2 mission. By the way, you can hear my conversation with the leader of JAXA, the Japanese space agency, about the Hayabusa mission and more. It's in our July 25th, 2018 episode. We'll link to it from this week show page as well. On the night of Thursday, February 21st, another Falcon 9 successfully lifted several payloads into [00:06:00] space. One of those payloads carries the dream of SpaceIL not just to safely land a spacecraft on the Moon but to inspire millions of young people through this accomplishment. We've got a great conversation with SpaceIL Senior Systems engineer Yoav Landsman coming up. First though something special from our MaryLiz Bender. MaryLiz was at Cape Canaveral for the spectacular launch. She met members of the SpaceIL team and assembled this brief recap of her conversation with one of them.
[Mali Marton]: I'm an engineer at the IAI. It's the Israeli Aerospace Industry.
[MaryLiz Bender]: That's Mali Marton. I met her for a wonderful discussion on Cocoa Beach the day after the launch.
[Mali Marton]: So I came to Florida to watch the Beresheet launch and it's a very special experience for me.
[MaryLiz Bender]: From where we were standing on the beach, we had a view of Beresheet's launch pad, where Mali witnessed her first-ever rocket launch.
[Mali Marton]: And it was very intense. I couldn't speak. I was like, [00:07:00] I wanted to do a Facebook live, but I couldn't speak.
[MaryLiz Bender]: Many of her friends couldn't join her at the launch, but she kept in touch as they watched from Israel at 3:45 in the morning.
[Mali Marton]: My friends were sending me pictures of the kids waking up with blankets and sitting out in front of the TV. It was really really fast. Even a big excitement. I could really feel it all the way here.
[MaryLiz Bender]: But it wasn't just her first rocket launch. It was extra special to Mali because she had a very personal stake in this mission.
[Mali Marton]: I started volunteering in SpaceIL in 2011, actually from the first day. I was helping them with their logistics stuff and when I went with Kfir, one of the co-founder of SpaceIL, he was telling me about his dream.
[MaryLiz Bender]: Kfir Damari, co-founder of SpaceIL, explained to Mali his vision to use this mission as an education outreach tool.
[Mali Marton]: And I think this is the moment that I realized that I will not be part of the engineering team and I'm going to fulfill this [00:08:00] educational vision.
[MaryLiz Bender]: Mali spent four years designing and managing the SpaceIL education program. And for eight years, she and the other volunteers gave presentations all across Israel, reaching over 1 million kids.
[Mali Marton]: I mean, we want to send a spacecraft to the Moon but the mission was to inspire kid to pursue STEM education. The reaction is excitement. They are very inspired. It really teaches us that we just have to find the right story to get to the kids.
[MaryLiz Bender]: Just as the Apollo missions inspired so many American kids to become scientists and engineers, the SpaceIL team hoped to create their own Apollo effect.
[Mali Marton]: But now after we see this bursting after the launch and all these kids want to be a part of it, I think we should call it the Beresheet Effect.
[MaryLiz Bender]: If all goes according to plan, Beresheet will land on the Moon and complete its mission in April. But Mali says the education program will continue.
[Mali Marton]: We plan on a taking the spacecraft story [00:09:00] and put it into the science curriculum, because when you study out of context it's sometimes boring. Sometimes you don't see the point of it.
[MaryLiz Bender]: The idea is that kids will enjoy learning science, technology, engineering, and math if they have a real life example, like the inspiring Beresheet mission, to give it context.
[Mali Marton]: I'm so proud. I did the education part of the mission because as interesting as the engineering part is I think that without the educational impact it won't be the same. I mean if a bunch of engineers build a spacecraft in this closed environment and no one hears about it and kids don't hear about it, we didn't do anything. This was the first vision and our mission. So I'm very proud of the educational impact.
[MaryLiz Bender]: But Mali and the rest of the team didn't just teach kids about the spacecraft. Using nanotechnology, they added a collection of the kids drawings, pictures, and messages to Beresheet's time capsule.
[Mali Marton]: I really hope that one day these kids [00:10:00] that we met all these years can go to the Moon themselves and see the time capsule and all the material they sent.
[MaryLiz Bender]: The main question she gets from the kids is whether or not Beresheet will return to Earth.
[Mali Marton]: And I tell them one day you'll be an engineer and you will design the mission that will take Beresheet back here.
[MaryLiz Bender]: In the meantime, kids can follow along with the mission and track Beresheet's location following its countdown to landing at live.spaceil.com.
[Mali Marton]: The amazing thing about telling these kids all these years the story of the spacecraft, there were times that kids could not believe. I mean I was telling them the story when they were in elementary school and most of them are now graduated. I think this is the impact that kids were dreaming about the spacecraft for all this time, and it's eventually happening.
[MaryLiz Bender]: This has been a story of inspiration and hope for the kids who grew up thinking that Beresheet was a science fiction story. But today recognize it as a reality. For Planetary [00:11:00] Radio, I'm MaryLiz Bender, Ad Astra.
[Mat Kaplan]: We've posted all of MaryLiz's has great conversation with SpaceIL Education Lead and Engineer, Mali Marton, as a bonus feature on this week's episode page. You'll find it at planetary.org/radio. Mali's SpaceIL colleague, Yoav Landsman, didn't get to make the trip to Florida. But on the very next day he joined me to help us learn about Beresheet, its mission, and why this small organization of true believers took on such a huge challenge. Yoav, thanks so much for joining us on Planetary Radio. So soon after this spectacular beginning of your mission and congratulations on how well it's going so far.
[Yoav Landsman]: Thank you, Mat.
[Mat Kaplan]: Where were you for the launch?
[Yoav Landsman]: I was in the Mission Operations Center. It was very exciting to be there. It seems like the whole world is looking at us. The Prime Minister was at our Center and a lot [00:12:00] of other very important guests, including our families and co-workers and everyone shared the happiness and enthusiasm and joy.
[Mat Kaplan]: That photo of all of you celebrating in the control room there in Israel has definitely gained worldwide renown, and deservedly so, and it's great to hear that you had your families there as well. Obviously it was a very exciting moment.
[Yoav Landsman]: Beyond words.
[Mat Kaplan]: What is the current status of the spacecraft, of Beresheet?
[Yoav Landsman]: The current status is actually better than anticipated. I can say that because I have some experience with the launching satellites. I worked with communication commercial satellites in the past. I can say that space missions don't go by the book and they're so complex and it's so difficult to test them in the in a real environment [00:13:00] as they meet in space. It's actually impossible. When you launch a new spacecraft, and obviously if it's the first of a kind then you will get your surprises for sure. So we try to plan for this and to anticipate it, but sometimes you just can't and you rely on your experience and all the very good engineers that are in there to get things done and to make sure that the spacecraft works as planned and can take the mission.
[Mat Kaplan]: You could talk to any agency or company around the world that has had this experience and they would tell you how that they always have their doubts about a first time out with the first spacecraft. So all the more reason for you folks to be proud. I did read this morning that there is a problem with the star tracker or maybe more than one on the spacecraft. And of course for anybody was not aware these are critical because they basically keep you on course. They tell you where you are. Is [00:14:00] that a serious challenge?
[Yoav Landsman]: Yeah, first of all, just a minor correction the star trackers tell us where we point how the spacecraft is oriented in space and not where we are. The problem is not with one star tracker but probably with how we anticipated the star trackers will work. So it's an operational problem and it seems that their gate's blinded by stray lights from the Sun in angles that we did not anticipate it, which makes the ability of the navigation system to use them somewhat more difficult than what was designed. But the units are okay. They can produce measurements. They produce good measurements. And even if we can't solve the problem completely, which we try to understand what exactly is the problem in order to solve it, I think it can be like a chronic disease. You just have to learn how to [00:15:00] live with it and it seems feasible. It's not a critical challenge. It's not a minor one, but but it's not severe. We figure out already some some ways to go around the problem and to perform our burns, our orbital corrections, without triggering this problem. And we already did our first maneuver, the first perigee increasing, yesterday and in about 6 hours who are doing the the next maneuver, which is much bigger. Much much bigger. It's going to lift the apogee from almost 70,000 kilometers to more than 100,000 kilometers and we are fully prepared for that. We even fixed the testing simulator that we have in order to model this anomaly and let us try what we're going to do, the maneuvers and [00:16:00] other stuff that we're planning to do during the mission, on the simulator in order to see that we can still operate this tasks without this problem.
[Mat Kaplan]: That's an important skill for any operators of spacecraft, especially spacecraft going to other bodies in our solar system is to learn to work around these kinds of challenges and it sounds like clearly that you were part of that tradition and thank you for setting me straight the function of the star trackers. Let's talk about what is ahead. As I read, it you will be going into orbit around the Moon, captured by the Moon, early in April and then expect very soon after that perhaps as soon as a week after that to make that landing. Is that correct?
[Yoav Landsman]: That's correct. It's a very tight schedule around the Moon. So we have to plan everything in advance and try to keep on schedule. We still have to do several small maneuvers [00:17:00] after the the lunar capture. Actually, one of them is not quite small. We capture the Moon in an elliptical orbit that is too high to start the landing from so we have to descend and to decrease the height of the of the orbit until we are in a parking orbit 200 kilometers above the lunar surface and then we stay in this orbit until the landing site is in the right phase of the Moon. The Terminator, the the line between the light and the darkness on the Moon, is just over this site. So it's dawn on the site when we should land. All the maneuvers are planned in advance in order to be there and begin the landing when we are on the perilone, which is the closest point of the orbit above the landing site the chosen landing site, in the correct time. We have to synchronize the position, the location, and the time in [00:18:00] a very precise manner, which is quite difficult to do.
[Mat Kaplan]: Why is it important to land at dawn or where on the Moon it will be dawn, so that you're Landing essentially I assume at the along the Terminator line where night is becoming day?
[Yoav Landsman]: That's right. We are landing in on the Sea of Serenity. It's crucial that we land on dawn because. We designed a spacecraft to withstand temperatures up to a point below the noon temperatures on the surface of the Moon because it's becoming very hot on the Moon during the day and of course during the night it's very cold. But also you don't have electricity if you depend on solar panels, so our only option is to land on the Terminator because then the ground is still... it's not cold anymore, but it's not very hot. We can survive there for two or three days which is enough for everything that we plan to do there.
[Mat Kaplan]: So not too [00:19:00] cold. Not too hot. I want to talk a little bit more about this this landing, You I'm sure you know, the old saying space is hard. We like to say landing somewhere after traveling through space is even harder. How is your level of confidence that this little spacecraft, first-of-its-kind, will be able to get down safely to the surface?
[Yoav Landsman]: You can say I'm optimistic, but I do have a high level of confidence in what we do. But I also as an engineer, I understand that it's not guaranteed. Every landing on I believe that it's even landing on the Earth, but also landing on other bodies are much harder and let's face it, we are doing it for the first time for us. So there are a lot of new things that we had to learn for ourselves we have to do to do it all by ourselves because not a lot of people were involved in such [00:20:00] developments of of landers. Only a few countries land on the Moon, and most of them will not share information. So it's very difficult and it's never done with a spacecraft this small, actually except the first one to land on the Moon, the Luna 9, which was a bit smaller, but it was very different kind of mission. But I think that our mission is also different because the spacecraft and the lander is the same thing. It's not a landers are separated from an orbiter. We need to survive a long time in space before we even reach lunar orbit. And then we land with the entire spacecraft. We actually thought about another solution of a two-stage spacecraft because we carry a lot of fuel with us. The dry mass of the spacecraft is is one-third of [00:21:00] the mass of the fuel we carry it's like a fuel tanker, right?
[Mat Kaplan]: Yeah.
[Yoav Landsman]: We get to lunar orbits, the lowest orbit around the Moon almost empty. The spacecraft dynamics is behaving a lot different than the beginning of the mission. If we don't have enough fuel, of course, we can't land but also if we have too much fuel in lunar orbit, it's too much for us to land because then you you need to have much longer burn in order to decrease the velocity of such a mass. We even got a plan to get rid of the extra fuel if we get to the Moon too heavy.
[Mat Kaplan]: Well, I hope you have a good gas gauge are you don't want to get rid of too much obviously.
[Yoav Landsman]: Actually it's easy to lose fuel, you just need to be less efficient during the maneuvers.
[Mat Kaplan]: You know, it was easy. You wouldn't be only the fourth entity in the history of the of [00:22:00] humanity to do this, right?
[Yoav Landsman]: That's right. That's right. We also have the Indian lander going to be launched soon enough, and I don't know their schedule, but you know what? I don't care because it's not a competition anymore. It was once but currently we just want to land the first privately funded spacecraft on the Moon and it will be the first.
[Mat Kaplan]: And I know you've been asked about this. But of course you are the first of the former Google Lunar XPRIZE competitors to get this far. There were those other requirements in the competition that you're no longer planning to to attempt like this after the landing hop across the surface of the Moon. Would Beresheet be capable of that if you thought it was worth the trouble?
[Yoav Landsman]: First of all, it's capable. We completed the design of the hop, so the spacecraft can do that and we will have enough fuel to do [00:23:00] that. But we will probably not do that. Actually. I'm quite sure that we won't do that because once we land, when we achieve soft landing on lunar surface, then why risk it? It's such a great achievement. I think I would prefer it to stay there as a monument as a... you can call it heritage site.
[Mat Kaplan]: Yes.
[Yoav Landsman]: And not move it because it's already there. So don't touch it.
[Mat Kaplan]: I think it's going to join all those other landing sites on the Moon which someday hopefully will all be tourist attractions.
[Yoav Landsman]: Exactly, exactly.
[Mat Kaplan]: Why was this particular landing site chosen?
[Yoav Landsman]: We had a survey of a lot of sites and we needed a site that is as flat as possible, which is not common on the Moon, without huge Boulders that can risk the landing [00:24:00] because we don't have hazard avoidance. We can't look at the at the site from close range and decide if we have to move several meters to this side or the other side on the spacecraft. It means that the landing is somewhat specific about where exactly are we going to touchdown. It's meant for us in the in the development process that we need as much safer site that we can find. With that because we are also having a magnetometer a scientific instrument we needed a side that is from a one point of view the engineering point of view is safe to lend and from the scientific point of view it's interesting. It's conflicting.
[Mat Kaplan]: Yes.
[Yoav Landsman]: It's conflicting in on every landing mission ever. This [00:25:00] mission is an engineering mission. It's a technology demonstrator. We found a place that there is some degree of local magnetism that is worth the measurement and we hope to retrieve these measurements during the landing and after the landing for the benefit of science.
[Mat Kaplan]: Of course that that oh, what should we say, that discussion that often takes place between the engineering staff and the science portion of a spacecraft's team. Yes, that is usually something that has to be worked out. Sounds like that has happened. We should also mention that the hazard avoidance capability that's a very advanced capability that only a few spacecraft have had so far and that even the the InSight Lander that landed on Mars just weeks ago went through the same kinds of concerns that you folks are, that they pick the smoothest site that they [00:26:00] thought that they that they could find and hope for the best. Hopefully you will be as fortunate as InSight was.
[Yoav Landsman]: Yeah, thank you.
[Mat Kaplan]: I know that you also have a camera, a very high resolution camera, was this... it looked like it's an off-the-shelf or or commercially available camera that that you took along?
[Yoav Landsman]: Yes, it is. We did some small adjustments because we needed to adapt the cameras to our special mission in order to look at the lunar surface from the ground and take pictures of a panorama around around us, pictures of the landing site. And also, one of the cameras is tilted down in order to take picture that part of it is the side of the spacecraft itself with one of the landing gear and a plaque with some messages and logos, which was part of the requirements.Of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, but we we kept that we call it the selfie [00:27:00] camera. And we believe that this camera is going to do the best images that we will have from this mission. This cameras have to get the the far objects clearly as much as we can as the close objects because we see the ground near the spacecraft but also we see the horizon. We had to trade off between between these. And also these cameras are going to take photographs of the of the Moon and of the Earth during our flight. Because it's such a long journey. So we just have to try this and get best images we can. I hope we can have some of these soon for the public, for everyone.
[Mat Kaplan]: I cannot wait to see those images like a lot of other people who I'm sure listening to this. Obviously those images and the data from your magnetometer have to [00:28:00] get back to Earth...
[Yoav Landsman]: And video.
[Mat Kaplan]: And video, right. All of this has to get back to Earth and I think it may be a side of this mission which will not get as much attention as the spacecraft itself. SpaceIL has done quite a job of putting together a network of receivers here on Earth to be able to communicate with the spacecraft. And then I know you also have worked out an arrangement with NASA for use of the Deep Space Network. Do you also see that as a big part of what it took to make this project a success or what we hope will be a success?
[Yoav Landsman]: It's a huge part. People don't recognize this but communication is one of the biggest challenges of this of this mission. I assume that on any other missions as well because the distances are so vast. And in a small spacecraft, you can't have a huge transmitter. Our small transmitter, which actually is the same transmitter that was [00:29:00] on the LADEE mission which orbited the Moon. It's a small transmitter and you can't have a very powerful transmitter because you don't have that much power in the tiny spacecraft. We had to compromise. And we use this small transmitter and we need to have large dishes for the receiving signals down on Earth. But these are not very common. The very large antennas are usually very busy because you don't have a lot of them on Earth. So we we tried to to find the antennas that are not very small but not very large in order to have a network and we have an agreement with the SSC which is a company from Sweden but have all kinds of antennas around the globe. And also they have for us antennas from other companies in order to [00:30:00] have this huge network around the world. In October, I think, we had our contact with NASA. We got the DSN, Deep Space Network, for us for the lunar part of the mission. It makes a huge deal because without them we have a link margin as we call it in engineering for the descents, for the landing, which is so tight that the the rate of data that we could send was only one kilobit per second.
[Mat Kaplan]: Wow. Back to the early days of the internet.
[Yoav Landsman]: Yeah, I think this is about the direct the use with Voyager with the huge antennas on Earth, but we're much closer of course, but still this is what it takes. When we have the Deep Space Network of JPL work for us then we can download on much higher rate. [00:31:00] We will get more images and scientific measurements during the descent just in case and also a lot of telemetry which is also important because even if we fail during the descent or if unfortunately we crash we still have the data which explains what happened. And this is very important for future missions because landing on the Moon is not something that's going on right now very often. We can learn from it for all future missions or for anyone in the world that wants to get to the Moon and I've heard that there's a lot of them.
[Mat Kaplan]: You know, that's exactly where I wanted to go next and I'm so glad to hear you talk about future missions. You've already mentioned India, which of course is readying its lunar lander, and some of your other former competitors for the Google Lunar XPRIZE are moving forward as well and some of them have business [00:32:00] models and plans to make a profit. What do you see ahead for SpaceIL? Let's assume that Beresheet successfully spends its time on the Moon. Will your company be doing this again? And will you be attempting even more?
[Yoav Landsman]: Well SpaceIL, first of all, it's an NPO so it's not exactly commercial...
[Mat Kaplan]: Right, I mean non-profit. Yeah, you guys are set apart.
[Yoav Landsman]: ... and we're doing it for education and inspire people to do things like that and to pursue their dreams. So this is just leverage for that. But suddenly we understand that we are part of the huge worldwide trend of getting to the Moon. Not only that but we are pioneering. We are the first that going to do that. Frankly SpaceIL doesn't have plans for for the next spacecraft. Maybe some other industries in Israel will take that [00:33:00] but maybe they won't so actually after the landing and after we finish the mission we'll probably separate and go to other directions. I don't know. Personally, I'd love to do something ;like that or even more daring. The education part will continue because funding-wise it's much easier than to bring spacecraft to the Moon.
[Mat Kaplan]: And how.
[Yoav Landsman]: Yeah. Well it's also a challenge, we will have to wait and see.
[Mat Kaplan]: You are anticipating the questions that I want to reach with you, and the next one that I had in mind was about the goal of this mission, this... the inspiration, especially for young people that that you just talked about. And apparently this is something that's very important to you.
[Yoav Landsman]: It is. It is very important to me. Before SpaceIL, more than six years ago, I left the [00:34:00] Israel Aerospace Industries. I worked there for more than 10 years in communication satellites in development and operations, system engineering. I left because I wanted to do something else, something that's more about education, and I thought kids and I gave a lot of lectures and I talk to people. Space is very easy to get people inspired about. I don't know why, but but it is it's something that from one side people are very easily excited about but on the other hand, most people don't know about. Almost nothing about space. And in Israel I think it's even more contradiction. Most people don't know about the Israeli space industries, which is not very small for this kind of country because we have more than ten operational satellites right now in space. It's something that the industry doesn't tend to talk about because [00:35:00] in the beginning it was mostly military satellites, but currently most of them are commercial. Commercial imaging and commercial communications and even one... more than one actually, scientific missions and now a deep space mission, so something is changing. We in spaceIL wish to see this change will also arrive to the public. We arranged this group of about 200 lectures, volunteer lectures. That's a very awesome group that's going freely on the spare time to to schools and to kindergartens and all over the country even to very far places just to talk with the kids about what we're doing and get them inspired by it. When we got to the launch, we already seen more than 1 million [00:36:00] kids in this country and told them about what we're doing and we got for the launch we got so many photos a lot of work that the kids did in their school sessions and songs and video clips and animations and people went crazy about this. It was overwhelming. I don't think that that anyone in SpaceIL imagined that it will be so so vast, it was heartwarming. Yoav I'm going to make a prediction that in 15 or 20 years you and the other members of the team that put Beresheet to on the Moon will be constantly greeted by men and women who want to shake your hand and will tell you that this mission inspired them to become an engineer or scientist or just to become more science literate. So I congratulate [00:37:00] you since this is a goal we share at the Planetary Society.
[Yoav Landsman]: Thank you so much. It's very important to me personally. It's very important to us the organization of SpaceIL and we're doing this for the people in Israel and the people of the world in order to share our enthusiasm about space, about deep space, about exploration. It's very important to us to say that.
[Mat Kaplan]: What is the best way for our listeners and others to to follow the progress of the mission and perhaps to see some of what has happened with the educational component of the mission?
[Yoav Landsman]: We have a site, an internet site at spaceIL.com. Part of the site is specifically for children. Also in social media, we share every time we upload some new stuff and new ideas for activities, new videos. So follow us, by all means. [00:38:00]
[Mat Kaplan]: I will and so will many of our listeners, I'm sure. And we wish you the greatest of success as barely more than a month from now Beresheet, which means in the beginning in Hebrew, makes its descent to the lunar surface. Best of luck to you.
[Yoav Landsman]: Thank you so much. I can't... I can't say in words what what I felt when you address me of doing this interview, so thank you Mat. I'm very excited about it.
[Mat Kaplan]: You are extremely welcome. We've been talking with Yoav Landsman. He is a Senior Systems Engineer at SpaceIL, which has sent Beresheet toward our planet's only natural satellite and with some luck in a few weeks will become only the fourth entity—three nations and SpaceIL—to have achieved a successful landing on the Moon.
[Yoav Landsman]: Thank you very [00:39:00] much.
[Mat Kaplan]: Time for What's Up on Planetary Radio. I am in the Planetary Society headquarters Ace Media Studio (former bank vault) with the Chief Scientist of the Planetary Society, Bruce Betts. Welcome.
[Bruce Betts]: Thanks. Good to see you, Mat.
[Mat Kaplan]: I have a couple of messages up front for you. As you know, we are once again giving away the coveted rubber asteroids. Perry Metzker in New York, New York. I cheered at the return of the rubber asteroids. May they remain plentiful and continue orbiting the podcast for billions of years to come.
[Bruce Betts]: Well, I don't know if we can promise that but I'm glad we got a bunch of them.
[Mat Kaplan]: A couple of eons might have to do, you might have to settle for that.
[Bruce Betts]: Might just be a couple eras, but whatever.
[Mat Kaplan]: You're going to like this one, too. Jason Gillette of Cleveland, Ohio. If I'm lucky enough to receive a rubber asteroid, I promise I will throw it at my friends heads and [00:40:00] yell, wouldn't have happened if you had a space program until they join the Society. Love the show, please keep up the good work.
[Bruce Betts]: Excellent. You should probably do that anyway. Well, no, maybe not. Don't throw rocks at your friends. But do encourage them to join the Planetary Society.
[Mat Kaplan]: We're going to have another opportunity to win a rubber asteroid in just moments after we hear about the night sky and all that other cool stuff that you have for us.
[Bruce Betts]: Okay. It's a good time to see Mercury. It's never a great time to see Mercury because it hangs out near the Sun. But if you look in the evening low in the west you might be able to pick it up. A little bit higher up, you can see Mars looking reddish and kind of a sort of bright star. In the pre-dawn, we've still got the planetary party going on from lowest to highest near the eastern horizon before dawn. You've got super bright Venus, less bright Saturn, and then bright Jupiter hanging out there. And on the 2nd of March you [00:41:00] can see the Moon hanging out with Venus. It'll be spectacular, crescent Moon and Venus. In the evening sky also check out Orion if yeah, you probably have with really bright stars and if you follow Orion's belt to the left for lack of a better term you'll find the brightest star in the sky Sirius and if your sky's not totally light polluted try to work out the shape of a dog. Sirius is in Canis Major and it's one of the few constellations I think at least looks like a stick figure dog.
[Mat Kaplan]: As Orion kind of looks like a guy with his arms up.
[Bruce Betts]: All right, we move on to This Week in Space History. It's the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 9 mission, Apollo 9 the Earth orbiting mission that tested out the Lunar Module for the first time in space. 40-year anniversary of the Voyager 1 [00:42:00] flyby of Jupiter in the beginning of the Voyager encounters in the outer solar system.
[Mat Kaplan]: That is quite an anniversary. Yeah, that's not one of the we've celebrated before. Of course, it wasn't the 40th was it? We could have done the 30th.
[Bruce Betts]: And I'm sure we did.
[Mat Kaplan]: Yeah, thank you. Somebody's going to look it up and tell us.
[Bruce Betts]: Okay. We move on to Random Space Fact.
[Mat Kaplan]: So much better in person.
[Bruce Betts]: Oh, yeah. So Apollo 9 with its test of the Lunar Module was the first time that people were ever in a spacecraft in space that could not safely return them to Earth. If things had failed when they were hanging out in the Lunar Module they were just well, they would be bad. But they didn't and all worked out wonderfully.
[Mat Kaplan]: Now they had a Command Module right next door, right? But they, I mean they did separate so I see what you mean.
[Bruce Betts]: Yeah, if they're flying separately and something that they couldn't go home in. So they were dependent just as of course the later [00:43:00] lunar missions were dependent on reconnecting with the Command Module that could bring them back in safely.
[Mat Kaplan]: They should have just gone to the Moon.
[Bruce Betts]: Yeah. That's how orbital dynamics works.
[Mat Kaplan]: Contest time.
[Bruce Betts]: All right. I asked you what are the two brightest stars in the Big Dipper? And foolishly, apparently I did not specify as seen from Earth in other words the apparent brightness as opposed to the absolute brightness. So, as much as it pains me, we will take either, and the answer I was looking for. Hey, you look up at the Big Dipper, what are the two brightest stars, but we'll take either. Go for it.
[Mat Kaplan]: Foolishly, apparently? Or foolishly, absolutely?
[Bruce Betts]: It was absolutely foolish not to include the... and turned out to be an apparent mistake.
[Mat Kaplan]: Howard Grahams, longtime listener, first-time winner as far as I can tell. He's in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Alpha and I don't know how to pronounce the first one there, I've [00:44:00] seen various pronunciations, dub... dub-howe? Dub- hey? Doo-bie?
[Bruce Betts]: As people who have listened long enough know, I have no idea. I pronounce it Dube-hey. And then of course Alioth.
[Mat Kaplan]: Both of which have an apparent magnitude of one-dot-eight, 1.8, which is pretty bright.
[Bruce Betts]: It is pretty bright and they just barely edged out Alkaid, which is 1.9.
[Mat Kaplan]: Congratulations to you therefore, Howard. And we are going to get you the very first of this new crop of Planetary Society Kick Asteroid rubber asteroids and a 200 point iTelescope.net astronomy account. But I do have some other stuff first. This came from Naruhari Rao in SugarLand, Texas. We hear from him pretty regularly and I just thought it was an interesting story. He says there's a rather sad Arabic tradition according to which the constellation of the Big Dipper [00:45:00] is actually a funeral procession in which the four stars of the Dipper form the beer and the three stars of the handle are mourners following the coffin.
[Bruce Betts]: Wow. That's a cool cultural story, kind of a bummer.
[Mat Kaplan]: It is, but it's a nice indication of how different cultures look at the same stars and come up with very different meanings.
[Bruce Betts]: Gets the plow in the UK frequently and some other parts of Europe the saucepan.
[Mat Kaplan]: Here's Joseph Putraia, Fanwood, New Jersey. He says if we were to find bubbling water Springs on a planet around another star in the Dipper that you just mentioned Alkaid, would that be Alkaid Seltzer? He says, yes, I know. That's a Dubhe-ous joke.
[Bruce Betts]: Oh, cool.
[Mat Kaplan]: Like that.
[Bruce Betts]: Way to pun.
[Mat Kaplan]: Finally from our Poet Laureate, Dave Fairchild, in Shawnee, Kansas. The Dipper has just seven stars and Alioth [00:46:00] is one that leads the pack from front to back and is the brightest one with Dubhe coming close behind, although our eyes can't see, it isn't just a single but a spectro-binary. Thank you, Dave, and we'll move on.
[Bruce Betts]: Apparently, in an absolute sense, where will the Hayabusa2 sample return capsule land when it returns to Earth with samples of asteroid Ryuga? Go to planetary.org/radiocontest.
[Mat Kaplan]: You have until Wednesday, March 6 at 8 a.m. Pacific time to get us the answer. And as we said you might win yourself, you want to say it this time? A Planetary Society Kick Asteroid...
[Bruce Betts]: Rubber asteroid.
[Mat Kaplan]: Well done. And a 200 point iTelescope.net account. You can do some astronomy, find some asteroids, from pretty much any place on Earth with those remote telescopes all over our planet.
[Bruce Betts]: All right, everybody go out there look up the night sky [00:47:00] and think about foam. Thank you and good night.
[Mat Kaplan]: Are you talking about the foam that covers the walls here in the Planetary Society studio, or the foam that apparently fills all of what we generally have talked about as the vacuum of space, the quantum foam?
[Bruce Betts]: Actually the foam that covers the inside of my room at home. Some people call it padding, and some people don't call it a home. Anyway, let's move on.
[Mat Kaplan]: He's Bruce Betts, the Chief Scientist of the Planetary Society, who joins us every week here for What's Up. Planetary Radio is produced by the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California. This made possible by it's wonderful members. MaryLiz Bender is our Associate Producer. Josh Doyle composed our theme, which was arranged and performed by Pieter Schlosser. I'm Mat Kaplan. Ad Astra and Ad Luna.