Israeli Moon Mission Set To Make Its First Maneuvers

On February 21, an Israeli company called SpaceIL launched the first private mission to the moon atop a SpaceX rocket that launched from Cape Canaveral. This is the first Israeli spacecraft to leave Earth's orbit. The ultimate goal is to land on the moon and make the world's first private moon landing.

NASA participated in the mission by installing a small laser retroreflector on the lander to test its potential as a navigation tool. NASA also gave engineers on the SpaceIL mission access to images of the moon's surface to choose a landing spot. NASA says that collaboration of this type will become more common.

SpaceIL was established in 2010 to aim for the Lunar X Prize, a competition that ended with no winner in 2018. SpaceIL decided to continue working towards a moon landing after the contest ended. SpaceIL will use a network of antennas to communicate with Earth owned by the Swedish Space Corporation.

Sunday at 1:29 pm Israel time, the first maneuver by the SpaceIL spacecraft called Beresheet was completed successfully. The company says that the planned maneuver took into account problems that were identified in the star trackers after launch.

Exactly what those problems were are unexplained. The maneuvers did mark the first time that the main engine of the spacecraft was fired. The entire maneuver lasted 30-seconds and was made at a distance of 69,400km from Earth. Another maneuver is planned for Monday night.