Israel’s pioneering lunar lander has sent its first selfie back home from more than 22,000 miles away.
SpaceIL shared the incredible image on Twitter, showing Beresheet’s view of Earth as it continues its two month journey to the moon.
The privately-funded craft launched from Cape Canaveral last month atop a Falcon 9 rocket, and is expected to arrive at its destination in April. Its name is Hebrew for Genesis, or ‘In The Beginning.’
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A handout picture released by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) on March 5, 2019, shows a picture taken by the camera of the Beresheet spacecraft
‘At a distance of 37,000 km from Earth, #Beresheet’s selfie camera took a picture of #Earth,’ SpaceIL tweeted on Tuesday.
‘Australia can be clearly seen! This photo was taken during a slow spin of the #spacecraft & for the first time see the #Israeli flag & text, “am yisrael chai.”‘
The image showing part of the Beresheet spacecraft with Earth in the background was beamed to mission control in Yehud, Israel, the project’s lead partners said in a statement.
The partners, NGO SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, launched the unmanned Beresheet on February 22.
The 585-kilogram (1,290-pound) craft took off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the private US-based SpaceX company of entrepreneur Elon Musk.
The trip is scheduled to last seven weeks, with the Beresheet due to touch down on April 11.
So far, only Russia, the United States and China have made the 384,000-kilometre (239,000-mile) journey and landed on the moon.
The Israeli mission comes amid renewed global interest in the moon, 50 years after American astronauts first walked on its surface.
Above, the SpaceIL lunar module. SpaceIL and the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries launched the lunar lander on a SpaceX Falcon rocket on Feb. 21, 2019, from Cape Canaveral
China’s Chang’e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon on January 3, after a probe sent by Beijing made a lunar landing elsewhere in 2013.
For Israel, the landing itself is the main mission, but the spacecraft also carries a scientific instrument to measure the lunar magnetic field, which will help understanding of the moon’s formation.
It also carries a ‘time capsule’ loaded with digital files containing a Bible, children’s drawings, Israeli songs, memories of a Holocaust survivor and the blue-and-white Israeli flag.
After China earlier this year, and now Israel, India hopes to become the fifth lunar country in the spring with its Chandrayaan-2 mission. It aims to put a craft with a rover onto the moon’s surface to collect data.
The image showing part of the Beresheet spacecraft with Earth in the background was beamed to mission control in Yehud, Israel — 37,600 kilometres (23,360 miles) away, the project’s lead partners said in a statement
Japan plans to send a small lunar lander, called SLIM, to study a volcanic area around 2020-2021.
As for the Americans, who have not been back to the moon since 1972, a return is now the official policy of NASA, according to guidelines issued by President Donald Trump in 2017.
NASA, which has installed equipment on Beresheet to upload its signals from the moon, says it is inviting private sector bids to build and launch the US probes.
The US space agency plans to build a small space station, dubbed Gateway, in the moon’s orbit by 2026, and envisages a manned mission to Mars in the following decade.
WHAT IS BERESHEET?
Beresheet is about 5 feet (1 meter) tall by 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) wide with its landing gear and legs deployed
Beresheet will stay in Earth’s orbit for about a month, slowly widening its ellipse until it reaches apogee, or its farthest point from here, at nearly 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometres) away.
It will then be slowly introduced to the orbit of the moon.
Lunar surface operations are meant to last just two days. Beresheet will measure the magnetic field at the landing site, and send back data and pictures.
A time capsule is aboard the lander – which includes a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003.
Beresheet will stay in Earth’s orbit for about a month, slowly widening its ellipse until it reaches apogee, or its farthest point from here, at nearly 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometres) away