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).
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.— Deep Space Network (@dsn_status) March 25, 2019
IN LOCK IN LOCK 1 TURBO
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:
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:
This neat video shows Beresheet deploying its landing legs shortly after being released from the Falcon 9 last month:
Beresheet deploys its landing legs 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. SpaceIL / Yoav Landsman
And finally, here’s a sunrise video!