Last time, we began our look at Beresheet, the landmark mission to the moon which will have Israel join a very select group of nations that have landed a spacecraft on the moon. Here are some of its accomplishments and a preview of what’s in store as it approaches the moon.
Beresheet’s first selfie
If you were embarking on an out-of-this world voyage, wouldn’t you want to pause to send home a selfie? That’s just what the Israeli spacecraft did recently as it sent back a photo of itself to mission control in Yehud, Israel, approximately 37,600 km away.
With a view of the spacecraft in the foreground and the earth in the background, the shot captured an Israeli flag and the following text:
Am Yisrael Chai
Small Country, Big Dreams
Don’t think that shooting this selfie was just a matter of counting to five and pressing the shutter. The instructions to capture the picture had to be scheduled two days in advance. Asaf Lewin, SpaceIL’s head of software, explained that precise calculations were required in order to capture planet earth – and not the void of space – behind Beresheet and the flag of Israel.
You don’t have to wait for a selfie to find out how Beresheet is doing. You can track its current position in space, watch a simulation of how the spacecraft is looping around the earth until it breaks free to enter the orbit of the moon and watch a countdown until the planned landing at the Sea of Serenity on April 11.
After seeing the positive press that the Beresheet program has been receiving, I was interested to come across a piece in the Jerusalem Post written by the head of the team handling international public relations for Israel’s historic mission to the moon. He is very pleased with the response. “Throughout this project, we’ve received intense interest and excitement from hundreds of reporters and media outlets worldwide, including from some Muslim countries,” writes Arik Puder of Puder PR.
“…the media fully admires and respects this tiny state, its people and their remarkable achievements. Yes, when it comes to Israeli government policy, international reporting is oftentimes highly critical. But this should not give us the right to label media outlets as anti-Israel.”
It’s amazing that they have found time to create a space program when you realize that they have produced a couple hundred videos in Hebrew and English about the mission.
SpaceIL’s Star Wars Ad
Some are inspirational – like a mashup of seminal countdowns including a glimpse of Ilan Ramon. Others are educational – such as one explaining to kids how trajectory corrections are done in space. And some are funny – including a movie trailer using the classic Star Wars crawl proclaiming that this moonshot isn’t taking place “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” but “This year, in fact very close to you…”
SpaceIL – What would you take to the moon?
There’s a very sweet video asking kids: What would you take to the moon?
- I want to take my guitar to the moon even though I know there’s not going to be any sound, I want to check it out for myself.
- I would bring my childhood photo albums so that in many years children will know me and how other kids lived in Israel 2018.
- I chose to bring my children’s “Parashat Hashavua”. That way Jewish children can learn about the Torah.
Beresheet will have to move quickly once it lands. It is not expected to last long on the moon’s harsh environment. Here is how Planetary.org describes its limited lifespan.
“The mission will nominally last 2 or 3 Earth days — not a terrible deal, considering the relatively cheap $100 million price tag. Recall that Beresheet is landing at sunrise, when temperatures are not too hot, and not too cold. Those benign conditions won’t last for long; as the Sun rises, so will the temperature, which will cook the lander. The cameras are only designed to withstand temperatures up to 90 degrees Celsius in storage or 85 degrees while in use; lunar midday temperatures can top 100 degrees. If Beresheet manages to survive the heat, the lunar night will likely finish it off.”
Facing those challenges, it’s a good thing Beresheet is also carrying a copy of Tefilat Haderech, the Traveller’s Prayer.
The Journey to the Moon (Landing on the Moon)
During the Second World War, about 300 Jewish engineers and metalworkers were taken out of Auschwitz and were forced to work in a Volkswagen factory assembling V1 and V2 rockets. One of those engineers was Isaac Bash who survived the war and moved to Israel.
As a child, Yariv Bash was inspired by his grandfather and credits him with his curiosity about engineering. After Yariv became co-founder of SpaceIL, he gave a talk to Volkswagen representatives in Israel. Shortly after, he was invited to speak to at the annual Volkswagen conference in Germany. “Wow! I realized the closing of a really old, really long circle,” says Yariv.
The same person whose grandfather had been a forced labourer, the same person who was inspired to become an engineer because of his grandfather, that is the very same person who returned to Volkswagen in Germany to tell them about his role in sending Israel to the moon.