Israeli Moon-Bound Spacecraft Makes Successful Final Maneuver in Earth’s Orbit

Beresheet (beginning), the spacecraft launched by the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL whose destination is the moon, made a final maneuver in Earth’s orbit as it continues on its lunar journey, The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.

Signals from Earth activated the craft’s engines for a full minute. The team in charge of the spacecraft is attempting to control its trajectory for the best possible entry into the moon’s gravitational pull.

According to The Times of Israel, Beresheet is now 252,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) from Earth. The maneuver was performed a day early.

The maneuver, the Times reported, put “it on track for a historic landing on the Moon’s Sea of Serenity in two weeks.”

Beresheet’s historic launch was a month ago. If it reaches the moon, Israel will be the fourth nation to reach the moon — following the United States, Russia, and China. Aside from the accomplishment of reaching the moon, Beresheet it outfitted with equipment that will measure the magnetic properties of the moon’s rocks.

At the beginning of March, controllers successfully activated the spacecraft’s engines for four minutes. This came after technical difficulties had prevented the maneuver earlier in the week.

A week later, Beresheet transmitted a selfie of itself with the Earth in the background from a distance of 37,600 kilometers (23, 400 miles) from home.

If it reaches the moon, Beresheet will not only be the first Israeli spacecraft to reach the moon, it will also be the first time a private enterprise has made a craft that reached the moon.

The project grew out of SpaceIL’s participation in the Google Lunar XPrize competition. While the competition ended in March of last year, the Israeli team that competed announced in July that it would continue its efforts to reach the moon.

[Photo: SpaceIL / YouTube ]