An Israeli satellite is set to make history next week, by becoming the first privately funded spacecraft to land on the surface of the moon. It is named Beresheet and it was developed by a nonprofit organization named SpaceIL and was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on February 21st and will land on the lunar surface on April 11th. If successful, Israel will become only the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon, others being the Russia, America, and China.
Beresheet completed successively larger orbits around the earth on its way to the moon, in order to get close enough for the moon’s gravity to snatch Beresheet from the earth’s orbit. The spacecraft orbited the moon in elliptical orbits and got closer to the surface with each consecutive orbit, aiming to maintain a circular orbit to prepare for its descent. A crucial part of the mission was the transition from our planet’s orbit into that of the moon’s and was achieved by firing its engine at the right time. If missed, Beresheet would probably have flown out of the earth-moon system altogether and would have been lost to space.
This mission highlights how far space technology has come since private individuals have accomplished what was once only possible for governments. Beresheet is set to land in an area called the Sea of Serenity and study the region’s magnetic field and take photographs of the surroundings.