The big moment has arrived: SpaceIL's Beresheet spacecraft is about to land on the Moon! The first attempt is scheduled for 11 April, late in the evening Israel time.
Since arriving at the Moon on 4 April, Beresheet has slowly lowered its orbit with a series of engine burns. On Tuesday, it circularized its orbit to an altitude of just 200 kilometers, and following a burn Wednesday, Beresheet dropped the perilune, or low point of its orbit, to just 15 kilometers over its eventual landing site in Mare Serenitatis.
From there, it will only take a single burn Thursday to put Beresheet on course for landing. Prior to launch, SpaceIL said it would take about 20 minutes for the spacecraft to touch down after the burn. The lander’s main engine will fire again at the last moment to settle the spacecraft on the surface.
Right now SpaceIL predicts touchdown will occur at 22:25 Israel time, on 11 April. There will be a live broadcast from the control room, which you can watch here.
|Live broadcast begins
|Landing process begins
On 3 April, the Weizmann Institute of Science, which oversees Beresheet's magnetometer science experiment, published a short article on the landing site. Here's a topographic map of Beresheet's 140-kilometer-wide landing zone:
There are also 3 smaller sites in the area that were previously identified in a paper by the mission team, which Phil Stooke has mapped:
A successful landing will make SpaceIL the first private organization, and Israel the fourth country, to soft-land on the Moon. Though the Google Lunar X Prize has already expired, its parent XPRIZE Foundation recently announced a $1 million "Moonshot award" that SpaceIL will get if Beresheet sticks the landing.