JERUSALEM – Israel’s lunar module successfully performed a complex navigational space maneuver on Thursday on its way to the Moon.
“Bereshit” (Genesis) is around 270,000 kilometers (168,000 miles) from Earth and continuing on its rendezvous with a satellite, which it is due to reach on April 11.
The $100 million project is the result of a partnership between SpaceIL, a non-profit organization established in 2011 whose mission is to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the Moon, and the Israeli Aeronautical Industry (IAI,) a world leader in state-of-the-art defense and commercial technologies and systems.
SpaceIL said in its Lunar mission report: “Today at 3:11 pm the SpaceIL-IAI engineering team performed a successful navigational maneuver with Genesis required to re-calibrate its constellation bearings which went according to plan.”
It added: “The maneuver required its main engine activation for about 152 seconds.”
The next major navigational maneuver will take place in two weeks.
SpaceIL is the brainchild of three young engineers, Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub, who responded to the international challenge presented by Google Lunar XPrize: to build, launch and land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon.
They became one of the top finalists but did not win.
SpaceIL did not give up, the design was changed and grew twice its original size.
Seven years later the dream became a reality.
The “Bereshit” spacecraft was launched on Feb. 22 from Cape Canaveral on board a Space Falcon 9 lifter.
It requires a complex navigational flight path resorting to ever-longer elliptical orbits around Earth until it is finally captured and inserted into a lunar orbit.
It is scheduled to begin its final descent on April 11 and aims to touch down inside the 674km Mare Serenitatis lava plain on the Moon’s northern hemisphere.
Two days ago, “Bereshit” sent its first selfie in space showing a plaque with the Israeli flag and an engraving with the inscription: “Am Yisrael Chai” (Israel’s People Live) and the slogan: “Little Country, Big Dreams.”
The image background showed Earth with Australia’s contour clearly visible in the background.
The unmanned spacecraft, weighing 585kg and standing 1.5m (4.5 ft) high, is Israel’s first space mission and the first to be funded by donations.
Once it has reached the lunar surface, in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot( Israel) and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), it will take measurements of the Moon’s magnetic field and relay images and video.
It also includes a time capsule composed of digital files the size of a coin that includes the Torah, drawings by Israeli schoolchildren, an Israeli flag and an audio recording of the Israeli national anthem and popular songs.