The Israeli spacecraft Beresheet is expected to land on the moon Thursday around 11 PM, after years of preparations and a seven-week journey.
On Wednesday night, the spacecraft successfully carried out its final maneuver before landing, and has stabilized in an orbit running from 11 to 125 miles from the moon. Years of anticipation will reach their peak after Beresheet’s March 21 launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Tonight, God willing, Israel will join the small club of countries that landed a spacecraft on the moon, alongside the United States, Russia and China.
On Wednesday, Beresheet’s senior engineer Yoav Landsman explained Thursday night’s event, saying, “The moon is full of rocks and craters, and the spacecraft needs a flat terrain to land on, a parking lot, if you will. The problem is that there are not many such areas. To that end, we located a mostly flat area, 18.5 miles in diameter.”
Landsman said that the landing requires precise timing, because “during each month there are two weeks when the sun illuminates the site we chose, and since the sun charges the spacecraft’s battery, the landing must take place within that timeframe. Inside these two weeks, there are only a few days when we can survive on the moon’s surface. It’s about two or three days when the sun is low enough over the horizon, a bit after the lunar sunrise.”
The Israeli engineer described the landing moments, saying, “The spacecraft stops itself fifteen feet above the moon, it stops moving, all the engines are turned off and the spacecraft is in free fall.”
“This free fall of a spacecraft which at this point weighs 400 pounds, where gravitation is six times weaker than on Earth – the truth is, it’s crazy. It will take it 2.5 seconds to fall fifteen feet,” Landsman said. “You may imagine noise and dust, but on the moon everything will be quiet.”
However, Landsman noted, “In our control room there will be a lot of noise because we will be jumping for joy.”
Israelis are invited to join the moon landing celebrations in several cities. Click here to check out the locations.