Credit: SpaceIL/IAI/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

Israel’s Beresheet Moon lander is nearing the moment of truth, projected to land on the Moon at about 11 p.m. Israel time on April 11.

That time may change due to final maneuvers, but in achieving a controlled landing on the Moon, Israel moves into the lunar elite column of capable countries that have plopped surviving hardware down on the Moon. Israel would follow the Soviet Union, the United States, and China.

The Moon lander is on an “excellent” track, according to controllers.

Now awaiting its fate, Beresheet is circling the Moon. SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will conduct a series of intense spacecraft maneuvers in preparation for the landing.

Beresheet on Monday morning, April 8, performed a maneuver as it entered ever-tighter orbits around the Moon. Over the next three days, additional maneuvers will turn the spacecraft’s current elliptic orbit into a circular orbit 125 miles (200 kilometers) (125 miles) away from the lunar surface.

Projected landing area on Moon by Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft. Credit: Aharonson, et al.

Projected landing site

SpaceIL’s spacecraft will land on a site within Mare Serenitatis, on the northern hemisphere of the Moon. This site has magnetic anomalies to be explored by a magnetometer device taking measurements as part of the lander’s scientific experiments.

According to Oded Aharonson of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, in addition to a suite of cameras, the mission has integrated a scientific payload consisting of a small Lunar Retroreflector Array (LRA) provided by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Also on Beresheet, a magnetometer provided by the University of California, Los Angeles.

Integrated on Israeli lunar lander, a NASA scientific payload consisting of a small Lunar Retroreflector Array (LRA).
Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Science mission

In a paper presented at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) last month – The Science Mission of the SpaceIL Lunar Lander – lead author, Aharonson spotlighted Beresheet’s science mission: detailed characterization of the landing site, measuring the crustal magnetic anomalies to constrain their possible origin and longevity of the lunar dynamo, and localization of the lander using ranging via the NASA-provided LRA.

Beresheet’s targeted landing site is located in the northeastern part of Mare Serenitatis and West of the main Posidonius crater – the area of the three optional landing sites, a primary site and two backups.

Credit: SpaceIL/Israel Aerospace Industries

“We plan to use these data to associate the anomalies with geologic features on the surface, and thus probe the genesis of the remnant magnetization,” the LPSC paper explains. “A relation between magnetization and local wrinkle ridges would be consistent with the hypothesis that the Serenitatis mare are uniformly magnetized with an intensity higher than typical Apollo mare basalts but only producing surface fields at physical breaks where the field lines can emerge due to edge effects.”

Also onboard the lunar lander is an experiment — smaller than a computer mouse — that could enable spot-on touch downs of future robotic and human-carrying landers, the Lunar Retroreflector Array (LRA).

For more information on the NASA LRA, visit my recent story at:

NASA’s Piggyback Experiment on Israeli Moon Lander Could Aid Future Lunar Touchdowns

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