Beresheet is scheduled to begin the landing process at 10:05 pm Israel time (3:05 pm ET) and to touch down on the moon at 10:25 pm Israel time (3:25 pm ET). The live broadcast will begin at 9:45 pm Israel time (2:45 pm ET) on SpaceIL’s YouTube video feed.
Eight years of efforts by Israeli engineers, philanthropists from around the world and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and $95 million came together in a non-governmental initiative seven weeks ago when Beresheet blasted off from Florida on February 22. Last week, Israel became the seventh nation to orbit the moon. The best is yet to come as tonight, if the mission is successful, Israel will become only the fourth country in the world – after the US, Russia, and China – to land on the moon.
The craft is deceptively small. Two meters (6.6 feet) in diameter and 1.5 meters high, it weighed 585 kilos when it began its journey but most of that was the fuel that propelled it into space. Beresheet does not need fuel after arriving at its destination since it will remain on the moon.
SpaceIL was the only Israeli competitor in the canceled international competition, the Google Lunar XPRIZE. To win the first prize of $20 million, competitors were supposed to make a soft landing (without crashing) on the moon; travel 500 meters on, above or below the surface of the moon; and send high definition video and pictures back to Earth. In the end, no prize was awarded, but SpaceIL said it is determined to continue its mission and launch the spacecraft, regardless of the international competition.
Beresheet will measure the Moon’s local magnetic field to help understand how it formed. It also brings a digital time capsule containing over 50 million pages of data, including a copy of the Bible, the blue-and-white flag, a copy of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, a full copy of Wikipedia, a recording of Israel’s national anthem (Hatikva) children’s drawings and memories of a Holocaust survivor.