Israel’s first moon mission spacecraft sends back selfie

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Agence France-Presse

The image showing part of the Beresheet spacecraft with Earth in the background was beamed to mission control in Yehud, Israel – 23,360 miles (37,600km) away, the project’s lead partners said.

The partners, NGO SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, launched the unmanned Beresheet – Hebrew for Genesis – from Cape Canaveral in Florida on 22 February.

The 585kg (1,290lb) craft took off on 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 11 April.

So far, only Russia, the US and China have made the 239,000 mile (384,000km) 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.

China’s Chang’e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon on 3 January, 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, the recollections of a Holocaust survivor and the 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.

Japan plans to send a small lander, called Slim, to study a volcanic area in about 2020-21.

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 Donald Trump in 2017.

Nasa, which has installed equipment on Beresheet to upload its signals from the moon, has invited private sector bids to build and launch the American 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.

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