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First images from Beresheet lunar probe show Israeli flag in orbit

Israel's Beresheet spacecraft sends home a photo of itself 37,600 kilometers above Earth
Courtesy SpaceIL/IAI

Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft transmitted home its first images on Tuesday as it continues its historic journey to the Moon.

From 37,600 kilometers (23,364 miles) above the Earth, the Israeli spacecraft transmit home a photo of its mounted plaque which features the Israeli flag and the inscriptions “Am Israel Hai” (or “The Jewish People Live”) and in English, “Small Country Big Dreams”.

Earth, and more specifically the continent of Australia, is visible in the background of the photo.

Israel’s Beresheet lunar probe was launched into orbit by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) on February 21 from into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It set to touch down on the moon on April 11, which will make Israel only the fourth country (after the US, Russia and China) to land a spacecraft on the celestial body.

The Israeli journey to the moon has not been without its hiccups. On March 1, SpaceIL said it had successfully completed a key maneuver after experiencing a troublesome system glitch several days before.

The maneuver involved activating the spacecraft’s primary engine for about four minutes, effectively sending it into a new orbit at 131,000 kilometers (81,400 miles) from earth.

“The maneuver was conducted as expected. All the systems of the spacecraft worked properly,” SpaceIL head Ido Anteby said. “We are on our way to the moon.”


Beresheet will make its 6.5-million kilometer (one million-mile) journey at a maximum speed of 10 kilometers per second (36,000 kilometers per hour), according to an IAI statement.

The mission added a time capsule to the spacecraft containing Israeli national, cultural and traditional symbols such as the flag, the Israeli Declaration of Independence, Hebrew songs, paintings by Israeli children, and a booklet written by a Jewish man of his personal account of the Holocaust.

JACK GUEZ (AFP/File)

With no plans to return to Earth, both the time capsule and spacecraft will remain on the moon indefinitely after the completion of the Israeli lunar mission, which aims to measure the lunar magnetic field to help understanding of the moon's formation.

The cost of the project is some $95 million (84 million euros), with private philanthropists providing funding.

The project started as a potential entry for the Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered a $30-million reward to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to offer relatively inexpensive lunar missions.

NASA, which has installed equipment on Beresheet to upload its signals from the moon, said last week it aims to land an unmanned vehicle there by 2024, and it is inviting private sector bids to build the US probe.

NASA plans to build a small space station, dubbed Gateway, in the moon's orbit by 2026. It will serve as a way-station for trips to and from the lunar surface, but will not be permanently crewed.

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