And the One that’s On Its Way - Beresheet 2
Today, my unscheduled 11th day on board the International Space Station, I had a space-to-Earth zoom meeting with Israel’s children, introducing them to the story of the first Israeli spacecraft Beresheet. As the kids were being guided on building a model of the spacecraft using basic materials from common household items, (such as plasticine and cardboard) they learned about a few of the components from which a spacecraft is built and they heard a little about its journey to the Moon. See link
I’ll say a bit more about that first Israeli spacecraft – also the first private one – which was headed for the Moon.
Beresheet 1 was built with the intention of landing it on the Moon. It was built in the Israel Aerospace Industries Space Factory – the initiative came from the SpaceIL NGO and was supported by the Israeli Space Agency within the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The educational vision behind the Beresheet missions was to create a new Israeli Apollo effect (1), and through it to encourage Israel’s – as well as the world’s – next generation to choose to specialize in science, engineering, technology and mathematics. And so, besides building the spacecraft, the Israeli Space Agency built a special curriculum together with SpaceIL, titled Moon Games. It included lesson plans and activities for elementary-school aged children.
This was the smallest spacecraft ever designed to land on the Moon at just one and a half meters in height and with a diameter of about two meters and a mass of 600 kg.
It was launched from Cape Canaveral in the United States on Friday, February 22, 2019. Its journey took close to two months, and on Thursday evening, April 11, 2019 it attempted a soft landing in Mare Tranquillitatis on the Moon, but instead, it crashed. Despite this unfortunate outcome, Beresheet’s achievement was in itself an unprecedented world-class event, positioning Israel just one step behind the United States, Russia and China by landing a spacecraft on the Moon’s surface.
In an image taken by the spacecraft from a distance of 37,600 kilometers away from Earth, one can see the panel with Israel’s flag and the text: "SMALL COUNTRY, BIG DREAMS”.
The spacecraft was launched toward the Moon, which is approximately 384,000 km away from Earth, on the giant launch vehicle which also launched our Dragon – the Falcon 9 rocket made by SPACEX. It disengaged from the launch vehicle at a distance of 60,000 kilometers from Earth, following which, it began orbiting Earth along an ever-increasing elliptical trajectory until it reached a point close to the Moon. At this point it began orbiting the Moon, allowing its gravity to capture it and draw it in. In its two-month journey it covered 6.5 million km.
The spacecraft was built and programmed to perform all of its functions autonomously. The operators in the control room transmitted data and parameters to the spacecraft, that were integrated into the autonomous software prior to any maneuver. The spacecraft control was done from Earth in the control room at the Israel Aerospace Industries Space Factory in Yehud. Throughout the entire mission the spacecraft transmitted information, data and images to the control room.
Two days after it crashed, SpaceIL President Morris Kahn announced a second attempt: Beresheet 2.
The development of Beresheet 2, by SpaceIL, started in December 2020. Its mission, which significantly raises the bar in terms of difficulty and complexity, was put together after conducting a thorough after-action review of the Beresheet 1 project, at all its levels.
The spacecraft is going to consist of a 3-spacecraft array; an orbiter, which will orbit the Moon for several years and will serve for conducting experiments and educational projects with youngsters in Israel and worldwide, and two spacecrafts that will land on two different sites on the Moon. The first on its lit, familiar side, and the second on the more challenging “dark side” of the Moon. So far only China has succeeded in landing a spacecraft on the dark side of the Moon.
The Beresheet 2 project is a multinational space mission, which is going to enable other countries access to Deep Space. It combines various scientific experiments of tremendous value. It is a historic opportunity to achieve technological, scientific and educational breakthroughs targeting the younger generation of scientists, engineers and dreamers.
Beresheet’s journey to the Moon is an outstanding example of a project which started out as the private initiative of the SpaceIL NGO, but evolved into a national project, that carries with it all of Israel’s citizens, who saw themselves as being partners to the mission.
I am convinced that the children of Israel, who today are going to take part in constructing a model of Beresheet out of plasticine, cardboard and glue, will take the leading seats in tracking Beresheet 2 on its complex voyage to the Moon.
Meanwhile, still on board the International Space Station,
Apollo Effect - Apollo 11 was a space mission which achieved the unimaginable: the first manned landing on the moon.On July 16, 1969, Mission Commander Neil Armstrong coined the phrase, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. With him on the Moon’s surface was Pilot Buzz Aldrin, while Astronaut Michael Collins remained in the Command Module. The Apollo Effect is the effect this landing of Apollo on the Moon had on the younger generation: they were inspired to show greater interest in the fields of science, physics, technology and engineering.