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Israeli Moon Lander Beresheet Sends First Selfie From Space

Not without a glitch, the Israeli moonshot is still on track

Beresheet taking a selfie with Planet Earth as background
Copyright: SpaceIL PR

The little Israeli mooncraft Beresheet has just sent its first selfie form a distance of 37,600 kilometers from Planet Earth, on its way to its orbital apogee point at 131,400 kilometers form Earth. The selfie shows the entire Earth with the continent of Australia clearly visible in the background, while the foreground is taken up by an Israeli flag with the Hebrew inscription “Am Israel Chai” (The People of Israel Yet Live) and the English inscription “Small Country Big Dreams”.

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While the spacecraft has completed several of the riskiest maneuvers, such as liftoff and separation from the SpaceX Falcon 9 carrier rocket, its journey was not without incident. Ground control had to deal with a sudden and unscheduled reboot of the on-board computer and the star sensor has proven to be at times too sensitive. Star sensors are used to detect star patterns and compare them to known constellations thus allowing the spacecraft to find its attitude in three dimensional space. These optical sensors are designed to detect the faintest of stars and can be blinded by exposure to stronger light, such as that reflected from the moon, which is apparently what has happened here. Mission controllers are optimistic that this failure will not reoccur.

While everything has not gone perfectly smoothly, Beresheet was able to execute the long four minute burn of its main engine that was needed to establish its orbital path and is now on course to complete the long elliptical earth orbit that will sling-shoot it towards the moon. Those interested, can track the mission progress here.

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