Beresheet, Israel’s first unmanned rocket to the moon, may still have a long voyage ahead of it, but it’s already taking selfies of its journey.
Thirteen days after it took off successfully from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida piggy-backed aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the Beresheet’s camera took its first selfie photo from a distance of 37,600 kilometers from Earth.
The 1.5 meter spacecraft transmitted the photo to the control room in Yehud, Israel, which is staffed day and night by engineers from SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries.
In the photo of Earth, taken during a slow spin of the spacecraft, Australia is clearly visible.
Also seen is the plaque installed on the spacecraft, with the Israeli flag and the inscriptions “Am Yisrael Chai” and “Small Country, Big Dreams.”
Beresheet’s journey to the moon has not been without problems. The spacecraft’s trackers, which were supposed to follow the stars, failed to work after launch, but on February 24, the spacecraft still managed to complete its first maneuver successfully when Beresheet’s main engine was activated.
Two days later, just before another maneuver, the spacecraft computer reset unexpectedly, causing the maneuver to be cancelled. On February 28th, however, after completing examination of the computer resets and implementation of corrective measures, Beresheet managed to complete a successful maneuver and is now on its way to an elliptical orbit where the farthest point from Earth is at a distance of 131,000 km.
If all goes according to plan, Beresheet will land on the moon on April 11. The spacecraft will study craters and the local magnetic field during its lunar approach and two-day mission.
On board the Israeli rocket is a Lunar Library, which seeks to archive human knowledge for millions of years into the future. The library includes an English-language version of Wikipedia, and keys to 5,000 languages.